Meitu launches AI platform for developers as it drops phone business

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At a recent AI conference in Hefei, Anhui province, selfie and social app-maker Meitu unveiled a new open platform targeted at individual developers and enterprises. The move is line with Meitu’s recent efforts to focus on software development and move away from a loss-making smartphone business.

The services will be targeted at cosmetics retailers, a sector Meitu has partnered with in the past, as well as enterprise and internet services businesses. According to the official site for the platform, algorithm and software services will be offered in three main formats: as on-demand software through webpage application programming interfaces (APIs), mobile app software development kits (SDKs) with offline and real-time features, and custom solutions for clients that may lack the “technical ability,” Wan Pengfei, director of MT Lab, Meitu’s core research and development department, told TechNode.

Together, the services also aim to make development more convenient, Wan said. Although the platform was only recently unveiled to the public, Meitu has already partnered with companies such as Baidu, for example, enabling cloud storage users to apply beautifying filters to their photos.

On the platform website, examples of Meitu technology include clothing and body posture detection, photo filters, and facial recognition for humans as well as cats and dogs. Previously, Meitu’s “beautifying” filters and other AI-powered features won its apps a loyal following. “AR is a big focal point for us,” Wan said, and a relatively mature one—allowing users to try on virtual clothing, accessories, and even makeup.

“The launch of the Meitu AI Open Platform is indicative of the company’s broader effort to monetize its core areas of technological expertise that include computer vision, deep learning, and computer graphics,” Wan said in a press release.

Although it started strong, in recent years Meitu has come up against photo-enhancing competitors who offer a more “natural” look to selfie-snappers. As of last June, total monthly active users (MAU) for the company’s apps fell to around 350 million, down 16% from nearly 416 million at the end of 2017.

The company announced in August that it planned to transform Meitu, its flagship photo app, into a social platform. In its most recent financial report, the company revealed that the platform had reached a new high of 119 million MAU in February 2019, compared with 90.7 million in June.

The AI platform announcement comes not long after Meitu said it would hand over management of its smartphone business to phone-maker Xiaomi. The sector was previously a major factor in the company’s losses, which reached RMB 1.2 billion in 2018.

On Sunday, Meitu said that it will continue to provide after-sales customer service for its phones. According to a Meitu representative, it will also keep developing image technology and beautifying algorithms for smartphones as part of a partnership with Xiaomi.