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Alibaba sets up AI research centre in Singapore

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LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 05: An Alibaba Group sign is displayed at the its booth at CES 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 5, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 8 and features 3,800 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 165,000 attendees. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Wednesday opened an artificial intelligence research institute in Singapore in partnership with a local university, as the battle to develop AI technology heats up.

The institute, a tie-up with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), is Alibaba’s first joint research centre outside mainland China. It aims to develop cutting-edge AI technologies in areas such as elderly care and urban transport.

The institute will carry out research on artificial intelligence technologies for an initial five years, starting with a pool of 50 researchers from both organisations, according to a joint press statement.

Alibaba chief technology officer Jeff Zhang said the Singapore venture was part of research and development efforts by Alibaba’s DAMO Academy, which was launched last year.

A focus of the institute will be on technologies to help in caring for the elderly, including developing robot companions to stay with them at home and sensors to help detect problems.

“Using AI technologies, we can address fundamental societal challenges such as an ageing population,” said NTU president Subra Suresh.

Singapore, a city-state of 5.6 million people, has a rapidly ageing population which is causing problems such as labour shortages.

There is intense competition among leading companies in the area of artificial intelligence, with Google, Microsoft and Amazon scrambling to develop new software and technologies.


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