Singapore startup plugs AI skills gap with pre-trained microservices
Sentient.io is offering artificial intelligence microservices that developers can use to augment their applications with speech recognition and other AI capabilities
Singapore-based startup Sentient.io hopes to democratise access to artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities with a set of pre-trained AI microservices that can be integrated into business applications via application programming interfaces (APIs).
Some 50 microservices are now available through the Sentient.io AI and data cloud platform, including a media analyser microservice that analyses structure and content in multiple formats, as well as a local speech recognition microservice.
Using a combination of these microservices, the company said that developers – even those who have not been trained in AI – can create applications to transcribe speech in Singapore-accented English in real time or a voice-enabled chatbot that searches a body of knowledge using natural language processing.
Sentient.io said the training data that powers its local speech recognition microservice came from the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s National Speech Corpus dataset, which comprises more than 2,000 hours of locally accented audio, 40,000 unique words and local terms.
Over the next few months, the company said it will update its microservice with additions to the dataset that will enable it to recognise more variations of local terms.
Christopher Yeo, CEO and founder of Sentient.io, said the company hopes to attract one million developers to its “AI as a service” offering, and a million users of each application that consumes its microservices.
Having secured S$2m (US$1.47m) in funding from angel investors and venture funds BeeNext and Origgin, Sentient.io is now looking to raise a further round of Series A funding over the next six months.
Sentient.io is one of a growing number of companies that are broadening access to AI capabilities amid the global shortage of data scientists and AI talent.
In 2017, DataRobot, a supplier of tools that help business users without AI expertise automate the data science workflow, said it was investing about $11m in a regional office and research outfit in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Singapore government has also been helping to groom AI talent in the city-state.
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In May 2018, AI Singapore, the country’s national AI programme, teamed up with local polytechnics to conduct AI workshops for students. This was followed by the AI for Everyone programme later in the year to educate the public on how AI can be used in their daily lives.
According to a report by Cisco and Oxford Economics, nearly one-fifth of full-time workers in Singapore could lose their jobs because of greater adoption of technologies such as AI and robotics over the next decade, more so than other ASEAN nations.
The authors of the report noted that Singapore’s higher job displacement rate is not a case of “technology catch-up”, but rather of having an “exceptional” environment for innovation and digital transformation.