Chinese voice recognition firm iFlytek to raise 3.6 billion yuan to speed up AI development
Chinese voice recognition company iFlytek plans to raise up to 3.6 billion yuan (US$565 million) via a private placement to ramp up research and product development in an effort to maintain its “world-leading position in core artificial intelligence technologies”, according to its stock exchange filing on Tuesday.
The Shenzhen-listed iFlytek said the proceeds will be used for further development of its so-called next generation cognitive technology, AI speech open platform, smart service robots as well as upgrading sales and service and improving the company’s cash flow.
The AI speech open platform is expected to get the biggest boost as iFlytek intends to invest a total of 2.05 billion yuan in that project with 1.18 billion yuan coming from proceeds of the private placement.
The fundraising comes six months after iFlytek was tasked by the Chinese government to spearhead the country’s development in voice intelligence by building an “open innovation platform”.
The company was named along with Baidu, Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings as the government’s first batch of national champions tasked with driving AI development in the country. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
iFlytek said in the filing that the AI speech open platform project is expected to be available to the entire industry.
The company has also been expanding its research and development team by adding AI talent. Earlier this month, it hired Li Shipeng, founding member of Microsoft Research Asia to head its AI research unit.
Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Hefei, capital of the eastern province of Anhui, iFlytek has established itself as the country’s foremost developer of advanced speech recognition, speech evaluation and natural language processing technologies.
It is also focused on deep learning, a subset of a broader family of machine learning technologies, dealing with algorithms that teach computers to learn by example and perform tasks based on classifying various data, including images, sound and text.