On Wednesday, Google announced Beijing as the location for its first artificial intelligence (AI) research center in Asia, no doubt looking to expand further into the country, capitalizing on China’s highly regarded AI expertise. In a statement, Google said the research center will be the first of its kind in Asia, comprising of a small team operating out of its existing office in Beijing. While the company has yet to specify how many people it would hire, Google says they are actively recruiting.
“This Center joins other AI research groups we have all over the world, including in New York, Toronto, London and Zurich, all contributing towards the same goal of finding ways to make AI work better for everyone,” Google’s chief Scientist of AI & Machine Learning, Fei-Fei Li, wrote in a blog post.
Fei-Fei Li, who will be one of the people running the Beijing center, has said the center will support the Chinese AI community by funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops.
Attracting AI development talent won’t be an easy task for Google; facing fierce competition from local rivals, such as Tencent and Alibaba, who dominate the tech scene. According to Bloomberg, the Google AI Beijing Center small group of researchers will be supported by several hundred China-based engineers.
It’s no surprise Google is looking to attract top Chinese talent. Last month, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt warned that China is poised to overtake the US in the field of AI by 2025.
For some time now, Google has been looking to rebuild a strong presence in China; tapping into a market which sees nearly a billion active internet users, providing much needed mass data. In 2010 Google defied the Chinese government, refusing to self-censor search content. In response, China’s government had most of Google’s services blocked; including its search engine, Youtube, and Gmail. In the last year, China has imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign firms, including additional censorship restrictions. China’s cyber regulators have said that the restrictions are designed to block influences that contravene stability and socialist ideas.
Recently though, Chinese policy makers have expressed strong interest and support for AI research and development; having also announced the country’s ambition to build a domestic AI industry worth billions in the coming years. As global AI interest continues to grow, China is looking to become a superpower in the AI industry, which has been predicted to significantly shape the future of our world. Calls for China to catch up with the US have been made by many top officials in China’s government.
Many AI applications, such as image recognition, only become accurate and useful once they have been fed mass amounts of detailed user data. China’s near billion internet users tend to provide much more detailed information than what’s coming from Western countries. While data is important, Google has said they are currently more interested in attracting top-talent Chinese researchers.
In April, research firm International Data Corporation predicted that global spending on AI will cross $46 billion by 2020, with the largest area of spending being cognitive applications.
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