Former Microsoft executive and noted AI expert Qi Lu joins Baidu as COO

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Just a day after it opened an augmented reality lab, China’s internet giant Baidu has beefed up on its AI talent after it announced the hiring of former Microsoft executive Qi Lu as group president and COO.

Baidu is best known for its search engine, which dominates in China, but over the past two years it has put focus on developing artificial intelligence, which includes self-driving cars and more. In that respect, the hiring of Lu — who exited Microsoft last year on medical grounds — is a major coup.

Lu most recently ran Microsoft’s applications and services business, and previously headed up the Redmond-based company’s search division having joined in 2009 following an 11-year stint with Yahoo. Fun fact: While with Microsoft, he championed a bid for Slack, but ultimately CEO Satya Nadella and co-founder Bill Gates decided against it.

At Baidu, Lu will be responsible for products, technology, sales, marketing and operations, and particularly lend his expertise to the company’s AI push.

Lu, who holds a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon and has over 40 U.S. patents in his name, joins a team that includes former Coursera chairman Andrew Ng, who is chief scientist at the Baidu Research center in Silicon Valley.

“Dr. Lu possesses a wealth of leadership and management experience, and is a leading authority in the area of artificial intelligence,” Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li said in a statement.

“To achieve our goals, especially in artificial intelligence, which is a key strategic focus for the next decade, we will need to continue attracting the best global talent. With Dr. Lu on board, we are confident that our strategy will be executed smoothly and Baidu will become a world-class technology company and global leader in AI,” Li added.

Featured Image: D Coetzee/Flickr (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)