A number of companies are investing more time and money into Artificial Intelligence (AI). The latest company to build an AI research center is Tencent.
If you follow tech news, you might know the name Tencent from the popular WeChat messaging app. WeChat is incredibly popular in Asia (it might actually be the most popular messaging app in Asia, in fact) and has a strong following.
Tencent is focusing on speech recognition and natural language development inside of its new research center. The center will be based in Seattle, and Microsoft’s former head scientist, Yu Dong, will lead the research initiative. A number of companies are jumping into AI research with major social media companies like Facebook at the forefront.
Why AI Is Not What You Think
Many of us still tend to think in terms of robots when we think of AI. But it’s so much more. Companies like Facebook are already using AI to do things like scan user posts. Hundreds of tech companies are scrambling right now, too, to come up with a way to use AI to find images and videos of horrific scenes, so that these live videos can be stopped.
AI has also found a home in automotive. Tesla is one company that leads the pack where AI in relation to automobiles is concerned. The company famously posted a video of a self-driven car a few months ago. So it makes sense for technology companies with the budget (like Tencent) to focus on AI research. But why is Tencent setting up a research based in Seattle?
Why Tencent Is Focusing on the US
This answer is kind of two-fold. Tencent has always had an office in Palo Alto, but the Seattle office will be the first one in the Amazon-dominated area. The main reason why Tencent is opening a research center in Seattle is talent. In the past, Alibaba, Didi Chuxing, Baidu, and even Tencent (at one point) have all tried to move US AI researchers overseas.
None of those attempts at moving research centers have panned out. It’s safe to assume that this time around Tencent decided to go where the talent is, and that talent is in the US. AI researchers that are experienced and can spearhead something as massive as a new research center also want to be where companies will fight top dollar to retain them.
AI research talent is in the US. Companies like Tencent poach AI talent from other companies like Microsoft. Microsoft happens to be based in Seattle, and many of the top talent from Microsoft’s AI research teams are unwilling to relocate. So moving its research base to Seattle makes a lot of sense for Tencent.
The company does not deny poaching talent from giants like Microsoft. AI development is massive in China and elsewhere in Asia, and Asian firms are spending more and more time developing AI, which includes research. Even though Tencent wants to move its AI center to Asia, the talent still remains in the US (for now).