Baidu targets SEA with R&D lab

Chinese search giant Baidu has launched a laboratory with Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), aiming to create new technologies to penetrate the Southeast Asian region.

Launched as a joint initiative under A*STAR's Institute for Infocomm Research, the centre is called the Baidu-I²R Research Centre (BIRC) and is aimed at enhancing Baidu's products and services in Southeast Asia.

Two technologies that have already been licensed for adoption by Baidu are a project on the Vietnamese and Thai Languages to allow search in these languages, and speaker verification technology, which recognises the identity of a speaker within three seconds of speech.

These technologies have not yet been launched in Baidu's offerings, said Li Haizhou, co-director of BIRC. Li would not say when these would launch in the market, but said that further announcements would come from Baidu.

According to Lim Chuan Poh, chairman, A*STAR, if Baidu wants to reach out to other populations, for instance, searching in Vietnamese and Thai, this would be where the new technology would come in.

"Baidu is careful not to compete with Google in the English language area," added Lim.

Wang Mengqiu, vice president of Baidu (pictured, second from left)said that for now, Baidu's operations in Singapore were limited to just this research facility, but did not rule out plans for an office in Singapore and in Southeast Asia in the future. Wang declined to talk about Baidu's plans for the Southeast Asian market.

At present, Baidu has offices in China and in Silicon Valley.

The two technologies licensed by Baidu to market are also not on an exclusive basis with Baidu, said Lim.

A*STAR is also working with various other Chinese technology firms, though Huawei and Baidu are the more prominent ones, he added, saying that the A*STAR and Singapore are positioning itself as a place for Chinese companies for innovation to reach the global market.

Other areas that the research lab is developing include Natural Language Processing, Information Retrieval and Information Extraction and Speech Information Processing systems.