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Google to open AI centre in China despite restrictions

Google is deepening its push into Artificial Intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in China, BBC reported today.

Google has said the facility would be the first of its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.
China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

Research into artificial intelligence has the potential to improve a range of technologies, from self-driving cars and automated factories to translation products and facial recognition software.

In a blog post on the company’s website, Google said the new research centre was an important part of its mission as an “AI first company”.

“Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, AI has the potential to make everyone’s life better for the entire world,” said Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist at Google Cloud AI and Machine Learning.

The research centre, which joins similar facilities in London, New York, Toronto and Zurich, will be run by a small team from its existing office in Beijing.

Google operates two offices in China, with roughly half of its 600 employees working on global products, company spokesperson Taj Meadows has told AFP.

However, Google’s search engine and a number of other services are banned in China.

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”.

At the same time, China has been expanding its push into artificial intelligence. Last week, President Xi Jinping urged senior officials to “accelerate implementation of big data”.

In July, China announced its national plan for AI calling for the country to catch up with the US. However, Human rights groups are critical of China’s use of artificial intelligence to monitor its own citizens.

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