Alibaba is making further inroads into artificial intelligence with another investment in Chinese facial recognition technology firm Megvii, according to a report by Bloomberg on Monday citing people familiar with the matter.
The Chinese tech giant is joining hands with Boyu Capital and other investors in a US$600 million funding round into Megvii, the maker of the Face++ facial recognition system, the report said.
The current investment in Megvii would mean that Alibaba now is directly invested in two of the three hottest AI startups in China. It is also the second investment in Megvii from the Alibaba Group, as the Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial had invested in the company alongside other investors in a US$460 million deal back in October last year.
In April this year, Alibaba also led an investment round of US$600 million into China’s SenseTime, currently the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup. SenseTime recently secured a close to US$1 billion deal from Japan’s Softbank Vision Fund.
Like Megvii, SenseTime specializes in face-scanning and recognition technology powered by artificial intelligence that enables the system to scan thousands of images at one go.
Megvii’s Face++ technology is used by companies such as Ant Financial in its mobile payments system, whereas SenseTime’s most important client is the Chinese government which deploys its facial scanning and recognition technology across the country.
Investments in China’s AI startups have been growing this year, led mostly by Chinese internet companies and venture firms. AI has been identified as a key area of growth by the Chinese government and China aims to be a global leader in AI by 2030.
Yitu, the third of the most popular AI startups after SenseTime and Megvii, secured close to US$300 million in funding just this year. While Alibaba hasn’t exactly made a move yet on Yitu, it has partnered with Yitu to speed up traffic in urban Hangzhou last year.
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