Tong Zhang, Head of Baidu’s Big Data Lab Is Joining Tencent to Lead Its AI Lab

30 Mar

By Mudit Mohilay, The Tech Portal

Companies are doubling down upon Artificial Intelligence. As well they should. After all, alongside other up and coming technologies like VR, AR and robotics, this is where the future lies. When it comes to Asia, Baidu is easily the largest player in the field. The company has vested interests in different sectors associated with Artificial Intelligence. Now though, Tencent (which is the entity behind Alibaba) is also exhibiting some serious interest in the field and towards the same, has hired Tong Zhang, head of Baidu’s Big Data Lab.

This marks the second senior researcher to leave Baidu. Previously, Andrew Ng, who headed the company’s U.S. based research team, had also announced his departure. Ng’s departure in particular was a significant blow considering that he is considered as one of the foremost authorities on the subject, Indeed, it was Ng who started Google’s deep learning initiative. The departures come even as Baidu continues to be one of the biggest proponents of an AI-driven future — having invested over $2.5 Billion into the field in less than 3 years.

Coming back to the latest exit, Zhang will reportedly be leading Tencent’s Shenzhen based AI lab. The lab focuses upon things like computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language processing and has over 50 researchers working in tandem to come up with new technologies. Meanwhile, Zhang  will also be leading over 200 product engineers who will be working upon creating new features for, and updating Tencent’s existing lineup of products.

Zhang holds a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University and prior to Baidu, had worked with IBM and Yahoo. Commenting upon the move and elaborating upon the kind of work that Zhang could be expected to take on, the company said:

Tencent is looking at four areas for AI application: content, social, online games and cloud services. At present, over a hundred Tencent products, including Weixin/WeChat, QQ and Tian Tian Kuai Bao, a Tencent news app, use AI technology.

Well, the AI arena in Asia sure appears to be heating up fellows.