Tencent ramps up AI operation

Chinese internet giant Tencent said it is gearing up its expansion in the artificial intelligence sector, seeing the red hot field as the next frontier of growth and innovation in the internet industry.

Tencent said it will open its first US-based AI research lab in Seattle, which will be led by former Microsoft scientist Yu Dong (pictured).

Yu Dong, appointed as deputy director of Tecent's AI lab division, will run the new facility and is expected to drive the fundamental research on speech recognition and natural language understanding.

Before joining Tencent, Yu was the principal researcher at the Microsoft Speech and Dialog Group and an adjunct professor of Zhejiang University.

"We hope that the AI lab will become more than a laboratory, but a connector," said Zhang Tong, the newly appointed director of Tencent's core AI lab and the former big data director at Baidu.

By opening the new lab, Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent joins the army of Chinese tech powerhouses-including Baidu and Didi Chuxing-in their quest to attract global talent to the booming AI sector.

Baidu was the first among Chinese tech giants to open an AI lab in Silicon Valley in 2014. In March, Baidu reportedly launched its second AI lab in Silicon Valley, right after Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing opened its first AI facility in the same area.

Tencent set up its core AI Lab in April 2016, dedicated to providing AI technical support for Tencent products and services.

The Shenzhen-based lab currently has more than 50 researchers and over 200 engineers, according to the company.