Former IBM scientist helms Shanghai AI Lab after death of SenseTime’s Tang Xiao’ou

Zhou Bowen, an artificial intelligence (AI) scientist formerly with US tech giant IBM and Chinese e-commerce platform operator, has become the new head of the Shanghai AI Laboratory after the death of its first director Tang Xiao’ou, a leading expert on facial recognition and co-founder of SenseTime Group.

Zhou, 47, made his public debut as director of the Shanghai AI Lab on Thursday at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC), China’s largest AI event featuring prominent speakers, which included Premier Li Qiang this year.

The Shanghai AI Lab is one of the nation’s top AI research institutions, with ties to major mainland universities as well as the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

According to Zhou’s biography published by China Citic Bank International, where he serves as a non-executive independent director, the scientist is a US citizen.

A graduate of the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Colorado Boulder, Zhou worked at IBM from 2003 to 2017, taking up roles that include chief scientist of the Watson Group, known for its supercomputer, and director of the AI Foundations Labs.

He then joined Beijing-headquartered as its cloud and AI president, and director of AI research, according to his biography.

Zhou is also the founder of Chinese AI start-up Frontis, and has been chair professor at Tsinghua University since May 2022.

His appointment as director of the Shanghai AI Lab comes months after its founding director Tang, a Chinese University professor and the mastermind behind the US-sanctioned, Hong Kong-listed AI firm SenseTime, died in December from an undisclosed illness at the age of 55.

Tang was tasked with setting up the Shanghai AI Lab in 2020, according to a statement published by the institution after his death.

In his speech at the WAIC on Thursday, Zhou said global AI development is currently “unbalanced”, as developers prioritise their AI systems’ performance over security.

He said he hopes to push for a technical system that puts safety first while pursuing long-term development in performance, and where AI can eventually review the impact and risks of its own actions.

The Shanghai AI Lab aims to conduct “original and influential” research and make fundamental contributions to basic theories, according to its description on LinkedIn.

In February, Chinese state broadcaster China Media Group aired what it said was the country’s first cartoon series made with the help of generative AI, which used a text-to-video model developed by the Shanghai AI Lab.



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