Chinese startups have catapulted to the top of the next battlefield of artificial intelligence – computer vision, which is challenging the human eye in recognizing faces and objects. The AI-powered technology uses deep-learning programs to enable machines to understand digital images and accurately recognize and analyze faces and objects.

The cutting-edge AI niche has great potential for a wide range of applications, including in security surveillance, online financial services, health care, and self-driving vehicles. China is already a global leader in AI, reflecting the country’s emphasis on mathematics education.

Now it’s building off that know-how to expand the possibilities of computer vision and create commercially successful applications. “If there are 100,000 people that can be called AI experts in the world, about 30,000 to 40,000 of them are Chinese,” said Huang Yan, a founding partner of CDH Investments, an investor in Chinese computer-vision developer SenseTime, one of the world’s most valuable AI startups. China already has 146 computer-vision companies, more than any other sub-sector in the country’s AI industry, according to a report issued by Tencent Research Institute in August.

Those companies have raised a total of 14.3 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) from investors, or 23% of the total funds raised by all AI startups. SenseTime, established in 2014, was valued at more that $2 billion in it latest funding round. It and other industry bellwethers Yitu Tech and Megvii Technology have raced for capital since mid-2017.

Between May and December, the three companies raised a total of nearly $1 billion. The takeoff of computer vision reflects the increasing accuracy of machines’ capacity to read images, making them capable of replacing humans in countless tasks, said Xu Li, co-founder and CEO of SenseTime. Read more from…

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