In Brief

Google expands AI research with new Chinese facility

US tech giant’s search engine is currently blocked in the Communist country

Google has revealed plans to open an artificial intelligence (AI) research lab in China, despite its pioneering search engine being blocked in the Communist country. 

The tech giant’s AI Centre will be based in Beijing, where a team of researchers plan to fund and sponsor “conferences and workshops”, as well as work “closely with the vibrant Chinese AI research community”, it says

Google had previously revealed it was pushing to hire AI experts in the country, says Tech Crunch, and the announcement of a dedicated facility “isn’t a sign that [it] will launch new services in China”.

Instead, the website adds, the lab “will work with AI colleagues in Google offices across the world, including New York, Toronto, London and Zurich”.

However, even though the company has 600 employees split between two offices in the country, “Google's search engine and a number of other services are banned in China,” BBC News reports. 

“China has for many years censored content it sees as politically sensitive, using an increasingly sophisticated set of filters that critics have called the ‘great firewall’,” it adds.

Mark Natkin, chief of Beijing-based network firm Marbridge Consulting, told Bloomberg Google’s attempts to create new jobs and train Chinese engineers at the facility would help “build goodwill” with the country. 

Beijing’s policymakers have “voiced strong support for AI research and development”, Reuters reports, allowing Google to focus its efforts on “exposing its AI products in China”.

It’s not yet known what AI technologies will be developed, but Bloomberg says the company aims to hire “top-notch researchers”.

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