China AI firm Yitu opens R&D centre in Singapore

A Chinese firm working in the area of artificial intelligence officially opened a research and development centre here yesterday, its first outside China.

Yitu Technology, which is known for its facial recognition software, said the facility at Mapletree Business City will support its growth in Singapore and the region.

The firm opened an office in Singapore last year.

Its R&D centre will initially focus on developing AI solutions for smart buildings, enhancing natural language and speech processing technologies for commercial applications, and optimising computer vision methods for medical diagnostics.

Mr Zhang Zhenjie, Yitu Singapore's R&D director, said: "The centre will provide a platform for local AI talent from both academia and industry to translate cutting-edge research into innovative AI technologies and solutions that create a better quality of life for citizens, from smarter healthcare to improved infrastructure."

The facility houses 30 staff, comprising AI algorithm researchers, system researchers, hardware experts and engineers. Yitu plans to lift headcount to around 100 over the next three years.

It noted that attracting top talent will be a priority for the centre, with plans to roll out an AI hackathon open to local tertiary students to bring in the next generation of skilled employees.

Opening the centre will form a key part of Yitu's plans to tap the potential of Singapore and South-east Asia as key drivers of global growth, said the company.

Hence, a "crucial component" will include customising AI applications to address specific local needs.

Yitu said it intends to work closely with industry partners, local universities and research institutes to carry out pioneering R&D.

It has started to explore such collaboration opportunities.

Initiatives include conducting trials with industry partners such as Keppel Land and working with Nanyang Polytechnic to boost industry-relevant AI education and research.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2019, with the headline China AI firm Yitu opens R&D centre in Singapore. Subscribe