As of earlier today, Google has taken a minority stake in Mobvoi, an artificial intelligence firm based in Beijing, as part of a $75 million fundraising round. TechCrunch reports that this is part of Google’s efforts to build its presence in China.
The size of Google’s investment is kept private and Mobvoi maintains a controlling stake. The Chinese startup has already worked with Google. The two companies partnered to bring Google’s Android Wear smartwatch operating system to China.
Mobvoi is three-years-old and has made its name in mobile voice technology. It has a mobile voice search service, named Chumenwenwen, that acts as a virtual butler. And it’s pretty reminiscent of Siri or Google Now. Using the service people can search, ask about the weather, purchase items, and more. According to TechCrunch, the company has deals with more than 100 content providers to give Chumenwenwen users access to specialized commands and services.
In addition to working together previously, Google and Mobvoi have some things in common. Namely, Mobvoi was founded by two previous Google employees, both CEO Zhifei Li and CTO Mike Lei used to be research scientists with Google in the U.S. Because of this, Li told TechCrunch that Mobvoi’s foundations are significantly influenced by how Google operates.
Google hasn't made any big announcements about their plans for their partnership with Mobvoi, but this new development makes it fair to guess that some future plans do exist.