Google to open Beijing AI centre


HONG KONG • Google is deepening its push into China as it seeks an edge in one of technology’s most competitive fields: Artificial intelligence (AI).

The Alphabet Inc unit will announce the opening of a new Beijing research facility yesterday during its second annual developers conference in Shanghai, the company said.

The Google AI China Centre will have a small group of researchers supported by several hundred Chinabased engineers.

Google has been re-building its presence in China, where it defied the government in 2010 by refusing to self-censor search content and later had most of its services blocked. The US giant has been ramping up hiring and promotion of its TensorFlow AI tools, features that CEO Sundar Pichai highlighted when he visited the country earlier this month.

Showing China you’re “contributing to the country’s development through creating jobs, training engineers and ultimately building a higher tech proficiency base helps build goodwill with China,” says Mark Natkin, MD of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

It also helps that the Chinese government has made AI a national priority, with policymakers in July announcing plans to develop an industry generating 400 billion yuan (RM248 billion) of annual output by 2025 and a world leader in the science by 2030.

Google’s most recent move to formalise its AI presence in the country is a tacit acknowledgment that companies and governments in China and the US are locked in a race to determine how the art and science of AI will be applied around the world.