Samsung, in partnership with Swiss automation company ABB, Chinese venture firm Tsing Capital and Hong Kong’s Waterwood, has invested $20 million in Vion Technologies, a Chinese company specializing in machine visionand artificial intelligence (AI).
Vion Technologies, according to the reporting news outlet The Korea Herald, is an AI solutions and product provider specializing in smart cities and business intelligence, and is known for its smart camera commonly used for traffic violations and facial recognition applications. Samsung’s chipmaking division, according to the article, has been working on machine vision technology in coordination with IBM, and last year, unveiled a machine vision platform based on IBM’s TrueNorth processor.
Chang Joon-hyuk, a professor at Hanyang University, commented in the Herald article: "Machine vision, more widely known as computing vision, is one of the key areas of AI, along with voice recognition and translation. Securing the technology will be crucial for implementing virtual reality programs on smartphones, recognizing images on devices and further for autonomous driving programs."
Samsung declined to comment or confirm the investments, telling The Korea Herald that "The company’s investment entities that are based in the US are independently making investments in tens of different foreign businesses, including the Chinese companies, which is hard to keep track of at the headquarters level."
This move is just the latest in a number of investments in artificial intelligence made by Samsung. This includes $30 million in British AI chip firm Graphcore in October 2016, a $40 million for China’s Tsinghua-based Deephi Tech in August as a partner company, and the acquisition of Korean AI startup Fluenty, an announcement that was made right after the company created an artificial intelligence center under Samsung Research this past November.
Largest investments and an increased focus in a technology such as AI and machine vision from a company like Samsung is not something that is uncommon as of late. Major technology companies such as Google, Facebook, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft have been investing in AI and deep learning for some time, and do not seem to be slowing down. For those within the machine vision market, this is certainly something worth keeping an eye on.