Now, Titanic in a new avatar. Well, to know more, one of China’s top tech companies is trying to enhance more the frontiers of artificial intelligence by teaching the computers to comprehend scenes from the 1990’s romance-disaster epic Titanic.

This technology, from China company SenseTime, is supposed to distinguish between Titanic’s romantic scenes from the disaster scenes. Obviously, humans do not have any problem distinguishing between Jack and Rose’s blooming love from the Titanic’s sinking, but this is highly complex for computers.

In a demonstration at MIT Technology Review‘s EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, the technology performed well and was well able to classify the scenes correctly. It highlighted well the advancement of artificial intelligence, but also the road it has to cross before becoming able to understand more complex movie scenes outside of public demonstrations.

For instance, Dahua Lin, the director of a joint research lab between SenseTime and the Chinese University of Hong Kong where he’s also an assistant professor, played a video of the scene from Titanic in which Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) gently holds Rose (Kate Winslet) as she leans over the bow of the doomed passenger ship like she’s flying. Then, beneath the video was a small chart indicating whether the company’s computers thought the scene was romantic or action-packed.


So, after crunching data, apparently, taken from thousands of videos and image stills in video clips, the computer determined that the scene was more “romantic” than a “disaster.” Then later, when Lin has briefly shown the clip of the Titanic sinking, the computers quickly identified the scene as more of a “disaster” than “romantic”.

To know more, advances in AI technologies like deep learning have led to researchers “training” computers to understand objects in photos and videos. However, SenseTime’s computers, at least as demonstrated, appear to be able to understand the context behind video clips besides merely identifying the objects. In fact, U.S. tech companies like Netflix, are also reportedly exploring the use of AI in similar ways to parse videos and then show viewers promotional clips filled with scenes more likely to appeal to them.

However, Lin didn’t explain how SenseTime taught its computers to distinguish between the context of movie scenes. Instead, explained more broadly the company’s work developing AI technologies that can do things like recognizing human facial expressions.


Lin also added here that SenseTime sells its AI technologies to Chinese “video services,” likely referring to YouTube. Also, he added that these corporate customers, wanted to know which movie scenes individual users prefer in order to encourage them to watch more, although he didn’t explain how those corporate customers would accomplish that.

Lin cited the country’s use of facial recognition for government surveillance to answer the possible misunderstandings Americans might have about China’s use of AI technologies. But Lin, however, minimized the potential pitfalls, saying that facial recognition is just a “small part” of China’s interest in using AI, that could also be used to improve industries like healthcare.