Google has officially announced the opening of its AI center in Beijing, China. dedicated to researching artificial intelligence.
According to the search giant, the Google AI China Center will be led by a small team of researchers and supported by Google engineers already working in China on the company’s international services.
That team will be led by Google Cloud AI’s Jia Li, head of research and development, and Fei-fei Li, chief scientist an, director of the Stanford AI lab.
The AI center will focus on general-purpose research in the field, rather than product development.
Being an AI first company, Google sees the move as an important part of their collective mission. The company believes AI and its benefits have no borders and is determined to work with the best talent in the sector, wherever that talent is located.
China is a hotbed for AI. The country has a deep and growing AI talent pool, which has been hailed by experts as being among the best in the world.
Tech giants Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu have invested millions into various AI fields, such as facial recognition, voice assistants, and automation.
Thanks to funding from those large Chinese companies, the government, or overseas tech giants, small startups, like Sensetime, Megvii, and ByteDance, have approached or surpassed billion-dollar valuations.
China also has a vibrant AI research community which the center will work closely with through funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops.
It will be interesting to see if China’s ambivalence toward Google will affect the company’s AI efforts there.
Google’s relationship with China has been mired in politics. Google’s search engine is blocked in China after refusing to comply with censorship demands, which incensed the Chinese government.
Many of the company’s other products, like Gmail, have also been blocked in China, and its efforts to launch an app store have stalled.
Additionally, Google will face tough competition for talent. Besides the country’s three aforementioned largest tech companies, Bytedance, an ambitious $30 billion firm, fast-growing SenseTime and Face++ will also be tough competition for China’s best and brightest AI engineers.