Ten­cent launches AI ini­tia­tive

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By OUYANG SHIJIA ouyang­shi­jia@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

First US-based re­search cen­ter to be led by for­mer Mi­crosoft sci­en­tist

Chinese in­ter­net ti­tan Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd said it is gear­ing up its ex­pan­sion in the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­ligence sec­tor, see­ing the red hot field as the next fron­tier of growth and in­no­va­tion in the in­ter­net in­dus­try.

Ten­cent, the tech gi­ant best known for it­sWeChat mes­sag­ing ser­vice and gam­ing, an­nounced on Tues­day that it will open its first US-based AI re­search lab in Seat­tle, which will be led by for­merMi­crosoft sci­en­tist Yu Dong.

Yu Dong, ap­pointed as deputy direc­tor of Te­cent’s AI Lab divi­sion, will run the new­fa­cil­ity and is ex­pected to drive the fun­da­men­tal re­search on speech recog­ni­tion and nat­u­ral lan­guage un­der­stand­ing, the com­pany an­nounced.

Be­fore join­ing Ten­cent, Yu was the prin­ci­pal re­searcher at the Mi­crosoft Speech and Dia­log Group and an ad­junct pro­fes­sor of Zhe­jiang Univer­sity.

“We hope the AI lab will not only be a lab­o­ra­tory, but also a con­nec­tor to bring to­gether the world’s lead­ing tal­ent,” said Zhang Tong, the newly ap­pointed direc­tor of Ten­cent’s core AI Lab and the for­mer big data direc­tor at Baidu Inc.

Lu Yanxia, re­search man­ager at IDC China, said the new lab will help Ten­cent to lure top international staff and have better ac­cess to the world’s lead­ing AI tech­nolo­gies, cur­rently dom­i­nated by the US.

“The move shows that the com­pany is bet­ting big on the hottest area of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion: AI,” Lu said.

“It will help the com­pany to cre­ate new mo­men­tum in key market.”

By open­ing the new lab, Shen­zhen-head­quar­teredTen­cent joins the army of Chinese tech pow­er­houses— in­clud­ing Baidu Inc and Didi Chux­ing— its in their quest to at­tract global tal­ent to the boom­ing AI sec­tor.

Baidu was the first among Chinese tech gi­ants to open an AI lab in Sil­i­con Val­ley in 2014. In March, Baidu re­port­edly launched its sec­ond AI lab in Sil­i­con Val­ley, right af­ter Chinese ride-hail­ing gi­ant Didi Chux­ing opened its first AI fa­cil­ity in the same area.

Lu said although Ten­cent’s ar­rival to the AI sec­tor was rel­a­tively late com­pared with its ri­vals, it was catch­ing up fast by in­creas­ing in­vest­ment, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of Yu Dong and the newly es­tab­lished AI lab in Seat­tle.

“The com­pe­ti­tion will be fiercer as more tech pow­er­houses gear up in the AI rush,” Lu added.

Ten­cent set up its core AI Lab in April 2016, ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing AI tech­ni­cal sup­port for Ten­cent prod­ucts and ser­vices.

The Shen­zhen-based lab cur­rently has more than 50 re­searchers and over 200 en­gi­neers, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

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