Opening the Google AI China Center

Opening the Google AI China Center

The move makes a lot of sense: research firm IDC predicts that global spending on AI will cross $46 billion by 2020, and China is going all in.

Alphabet Inc's Google said on 13 December it is opening an artificial intelligence (AI) research center in China to target the country's local talent, even as the US search firm's products remain blocked in the country. The news was shared by Google chief scientist Fei-Fei Li ahead of Google Developer Days events in Shanghai.

"Along with Dr. Jia Li, head of research and development at Google Cloud AI, I'll be leading and coordinating the research", Li said in a blog post.

The announcement of the research center comes seven years after Google shuttered its China-based search service during a high-profile spat with the government over requirements that all internet companies filter their content.

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The research centre, which joins similar facilities in London, New York, Toronto and Zurich, will be run by a small team from its existing office in Beijing. "We want to work with the best AI talent, wherever that talent is...." Fei-Fei Li joined Google past year. In the following years, Google's other web services, including Gmail and the Google Play app store, were blocked.

At the same time, China has been expanding its push into artificial intelligence.

Earlier in the year, the company put on a show on the mainland when it put its AI technology up to the test by making it compete with top human Go players.

According to sources, the China lab has already hired some top talent and there are twenty more job openings. It faces considerable competition for talent from the likes of Baidu Inc., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which are all focused in advancing their AI capabilities as well.