Baidu Taps Former Google Executive for New Artificial Intelligence Lab

May 19, 2014 11:59 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Baidu, the company behind China's biggest search engine, has scored both a former Google executive and space in Silicon Valley for its new artificial intelligence lab.

Opening near Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, the new research-and-development center will further Baidu's efforts in search as well as in algorithms that mimic the human brain, Reuters reported.

The company, which also has Deep Learning Lab and Big Data Lab in Beijing, will invest $300 million into the new lab that will have around 200 employees, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The new venture will be headed by Andrew Ng, former artificial intelligence chief for Google and most recently the head of Stanford University's artificial intelligence lab, who plans to use the lab's resources to concentrate on specific projects.

"The philosophy of the lab will be to have a small number of projects with strong leaders," said Ng, as quoted by WSJ.

Facebook and Google don't compete with Baidu for users because of China's strict Internet blocks, but the three companies do vie for top talent like Ng. Along with Microsoft, all three have been working to move forward in the field of artificial intelligence.

Google purchased DeepMind Technologies earlier this year for a reported $500 million, while Facebook tapped a well-known New York University researcher in 2013 to pursue deep learning. Microsoft's Bing search engine has been using artificial intelligence as well.

While working at Google, Ng developed a "neural network" composed of 16,000 computers. Called the "Google brain," the project learned to identify a cat after processing thousands of cat images.

Artificial intelligence is still limited but advancing quickly, Ng said.

"There is a hypothesis that a lot of human intelligence is due to one learning algorithm," he told WSJ. "No one knows what the right algorithm is, but it gives us hope that if we can discover some crude approximation of whatever this algorithm is and implement it on a computer, that can help us make a lot of progress."

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