Former Microsoft AI chief invests in Seattle startup Asensys – GeekWire

Harry Shum, former head of Microsoft’s AI and Research Group, in his Redmond office in 2017. (GeekWire File Photo / Todd Bishop)

Asensys, a Seattle startup promising to build a more scalable and efficient blockchain infrastructure, has landed noted computer scientist and former Microsoft artificial intelligence chief Harry Shum as one of the investors in a $2.7 million angel round.

Shum’s interest points to the potential of AI to benefit from the secure, decentralized nature of blockchain, the type of distributed public ledger best known for powering cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, said Asensys founder Brendon (JiaPing) Wang, a former Microsoft researcher.

Blockchain’s characteristics can help to address the privacy challenges inherent to centralized AI data repositories, Wang said. However, to realize the full potential of AI on blockchain, it’s critical for the underlying blockchain infrastructure to scale more efficiently than existing systems do.

Asensys founder Brendon (JiaPing) Wang.

“We can have a more safe and more trustworthy AI,” Wang said in an interview with GeekWire, explaining that the Asensys blockchain will enable a variety of applications in addition to artificial intelligence.

Shum left Microsoft in February after a 23-year career at the Redmond company, most recently leading its AI and Research Group, which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella formed in in 2016 as a fourth engineering division at the company, alongside the Office, Windows and Cloud & Enterprise divisions.

Wang and his colleagues say they’ve come up with a new solution to what’s known as the blockchain “trilemma,” in which duplication of blockchain transactions across different nodes in the network makes the system decentralized and secure, but also more difficult to scale efficiently.

“Simply put, we are here to conquer the blockchain trilemma,” said Michelle Chuang, the company’s chief operating officer.

Their approach is based…

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