Google, which shut its China search engine in 2010 and then saw all its web services get blocked in 2014, today announced it’s opening an AI research center in Beijing.
“Since becoming a professor 12 years ago and joining Google a year ago, I’ve had the good fortune to work with many talented Chinese engineers, researchers, and technologists. China is home to many of the world’s top experts in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Google chief scientist Fei-Fei Li in a blog post this morning (hat-tip to TechCrunch for spotting this).
Dr. Li, 41, was born in Beijing, but the Princeton alum and Stanford professor – she’s director of the Stanford AI Lab alongside her Google role – is now based in California.
“All three winning teams of the ImageNet Challenge in the past three years have been largely composed of Chinese researchers,” explained Li. “Chinese authors contributed 43 percent of all content in the top 100 AI journals in 2015 – and when the Association for the Advancement of AI discovered that their annual meeting overlapped with Chinese New Year this year, they rescheduled.”
Describing Google as “an AI-first company,” she added: “I believe AI and its benefits have no borders. Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, it has the potential to make everyone’s life better for the entire world.”
Google already has AI research groups in New York, Toronto, London, and Zurich.
Despite Google getting whacked by the Great Firewall, the company maintains offices in China largely devoted to its ad network.
Google’s new Beijing lab will consist of a team of AI researchers “supported by Google China’s strong engineering teams,” it said in a statement. Some “top experts” have been hired already, with many jobs still up for grabs.
Li will be leading the research alongside Dr. Jia Li, head of research and development at Google Cloud AI.
“Besides publishing its own work, the Google AI China Center will also support the AI research community by funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops, and working closely with the vibrant Chinese AI research community,” added Google’s chief scientist.
Google’s investment in China might ease relations with authorities as the US company gradually tries to get back in front of China’s web users. The firm earlier this year reconfigured its Translate app so that it worked in China.
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