Even though its search engine, Gmail service, maps, and docs are blocked in the country, Google has announced that its first AI center to open in Asia will be located in Beijing, China. Google Chief Scientist Fei-Fei Li said it would launch at the Google Developer Days event in Shanghai today.
The company said the center will focus on basic artificial intelligence research and will consist of a team of AI researchers in Beijing, who will be supported by Google engineers based in China. Li said she would be leading and coordinating the research alongside Dr. Jia Li, the head of research and development at Google Cloud AI.
The center will also “support the AI research community by funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops, and working closely with the vibrant Chinese AI research community.” It joins other AI groups from locations around the world, including New York, Toronto, London, and Zurich, who will work with the researchers in Beijing.
It’s been seven years since Google Search left China, but the company is increasingly turning toward AI as a way of reentering what is the world’s largest online market. Bloomberg reports that the company has been actively promoting TensorFlow, its AI system software, toward China’s academics and tech industry. It also reintroduced its Translate mobile app to China earlier this year.
In addition to the “top talent” it has already hired, the AI center is still looking to fill more than 20 positions, according to the Google Career’s site.
Back in 2015, Google-co founder Sergey Brin said that some of parent company Alphabet’s various units might do business in China. “Each Alphabet business can make its own decisions on which countries to operate in. We already do quite a lot of business in China, although it has not been an easy country for us,” he told the Wall Street Journal.