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Chinese AI a rare arena which blazes a trail: Megvii CEO

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rare arena in which China has been leading the way from technological innovation to the implementation of technologies, the head of Chinese AI unicorn Megvii Technology said on Wednesday, downplaying concerns over US export controls and the firm’s Hong Kong listing.

The Entity List, a US export control list, would have an impact on Chinese technology firms factoring in the need for US supplies, but the impact on Megvii would be lessened, Yin Qi, cofounder and CEO of the Beijing-based AI firm known for its facial recognition platform Face++, told a media briefing in Beijing.

He cited indigenous algorithms that are at the core of the firm’s AI prowess. In a sign of technological confidence, the firm announced in March it would open-source its proprietary deep learning framework MegEngine, making the platform accessible to developers across the globe.

The 1.0 version of Megvii’s Brain++ architecture, built to enable algorithm training at scale, will be officially launched in September, according to Yin, highlighting the firm’s temperature screening solution as part of the AI-enabled response to the coronavirus outbreak which is accelerating digitalization.

The AI unicorn was founded in 2011 by three Tsinghua University graduates – Yin, Tang Wenbin and Yang Mu.

Eight Chinese tech firms including top AI startups such as Megvii, SenseTime Group and YITU Technology were added to the US Entity List in October 2019.

An increasing number of Chinese entities were put on the list amid heightened tensions between the world’s top two economies. In a fresh move, the US commerce department announced earlier in July the addition of 11 Chinese firms including Nanchang O-Film Tech and Beijing Liuhe BGI to the list.

China-origin AI algorithms are fairly on par with, if not better than their global counterparts, Xiang Ligang, director-general of telecom industry association Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The nation’s large user base and wide-ranging AI application scenarios underpin its competitiveness in an era where AI usage becomes increasingly prevalent, he said.

When asked about Megvii’s IPO postponement, Yin remarked that the firm is continuing its steady push for its listing and is awaiting the right timing.

Megvii keeps its business healthy and maintains an adequate cash flow, he said, noting that the firm not only wants to go public but hopes for a stable performance after the Hong Kong listing.

The firm filed for an IPO in the Hong Kong market in August 2019.

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