Tencent to open AI research center in Seattle

Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent will be opening a new AI research center in Seattle, according to The Information. The company has long had a core office in Palo Alto, but this will be its first major machine intelligence R&D effort in the country. Earlier this week Tencent announced that it would open its first data center in Silicon Valley. 

Yu Dong, formally of Microsoft Research, is said to be leading the U.S. effort. He recently joined Tencent and has traditionally focused on the nexus of speech recognition and deep learning. Tencent has a clear interest in developing a personal assistant that could tie its products together and increase its competitiveness in the market.

Tencent’s investment in machine learning will enable it to deploy the technology across the company. Rather than build one-off services, the smartest tech companies are designing models that can be integrated into older products and services while serving as the basis for new ones.

Baidu has been pouring resources into its own AI research lab in Silicon Valley, though it has suffered two key setbacks in recent weeks. Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief scientist, left the company back in March. And fittingly, Tencent itself nabbed Tong Zhang who led Baidu’s Big Data Lab. Despite the news, Baidu plans to open a second AI research center in the Valley.

Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba, Didi Chuxing and other Chinese tech companies have struggled to convince U.S. AI researchers to move their research overseas. This has led to stiff competition for AI talent in the U.S. as major international tech companies compete for engineers alongside Google, Microsoft and Facebook on their home turf.