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Chinese AI champion SenseTime ventures into Japan, South Korea markets

Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) champion SenseTime, known as a provider of AI systems to governments and corporate clients, is now venturing into foreign consumer markets, initially in Japan and South Korea.

SenseRobot Go, an interactive machine that plays the Chinese board game Go with a human opponent using a physical board, will be available in Japan starting January 5 from, department store chain Takashimaya and via Go clubs in multiple cities, the Chinese company said in a statement on Wednesday.

It added that the AI Go player has also been available for Korean consumers, without disclosing details. In November, SenseTime partnered with Korean electronic device distributor Cynex Zone to launch the product in the country, according to an article in StudyinKoreaNews.

Known as a supplier of image recognition and analysis technology to governments and companies, SenseTime said it will “introduce more AI products for consumers in the overseas markets, including the Asia-Pacific”.

The latest move saw SenseTimes’s stock price gain 4.6 per cent to HK$1.14 (US$0.15) in Hong Kong on Thursday, still well below its initial public offering price of HK$3.85, which came after the company was sanctioned by the US in 2021. Japan’s SoftBank Group has cut its stake in the company, selling 27.5 million shares on December 19, reducing its voting rights shares from 16.85 per cent in February to 10.97 per cent, according to disclosures on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

SenseRobot Go is an adaptation of the firm’s first offering for consumers, a robot that can play Chinese chess, launched last year at a starting price of 2,299 yuan (US$322). The Go player is selling from 3,999 yuan on Tmall, one of the major domestic online marketplaces run by Alibaba Group Holding, and E-commerce giant Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Unlike other AI game-playing systems like the AlphaGo, the computer program developed by Google’s DeepMind, SenseTime’s version integrates AI with a robotic arm that precisely moves the pieces on a real board, packing the technology into a machine that is no more than 36 centimetres in length. In August, the SenseTime robot beat world Go champion Chen Yaoye in a game that was broadcast live.

SenseRobot Go sold nearly 1,000 units in less than a month after its June launch in China, the company said in a financial disclosure.

Separately, SenseTime has been under pressure after the sudden death this month of co-founder Tang Xiao’ou, who was 55. Its shares fell to their lowest on record on the news, although the company said Tang’s passing was “not expected to have a material adverse impact on daily management and ordinary business activities”. South China Morning Post

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