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Take that, Google! Baidu hires former Googler Andrew Ng to head new AI lab in Sunnyvale

18 May 2014, 4:11 am EDT By James Maynard Tech Times
Andrew Ng, a leading researcher for Google, has gone to work for Baidu of China.   ( Creative Commons/InverseHypercube )

Andrew Ng, a former Google emplyee, has left the internet giant for a new research position at Baidu. The Chinese web services company is based in Bejing, and operates on much the same model as Google. 

Ng is an accomplished specialist in artificial intelligence. Born in England in 1976, he is an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University. The researchers also directs the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. 

He has previously helped to develop ROS, a popular software platforms for robots, and the Stanford Autonomous Helicopter project. This project created one of the most advanced autonomous helicopters in the world. 

Baidu has announced the researcher will be assigned as chief scientist at their artificial intelligence research labs, located in Bejing, and Sunnyvale, California. 

In order to bring higher education to the masses, Ng assisted in the creation of Coursea, an online teaching tool. This service networks dozens of colleges and universities, offering full courses online, many of which can be taken for free. 

A neural network designed by Ng carefully examined thousands of online videos. From what it saw, the system taught itself to recognize cats.  

Baidu is the most popular search engine in the world's most-populous country. The company has stated they have no immediate plans to capture the American market. However, in an effort to take advantage of available trained labor and increase their recognition in the industry, the company has recently opened an office in the Golden State. 

"Baidu Research and its labs will bring together top-flight Chinese, American, and global research talent to advance Baidu's technological leadership. We are confident that our new U.S. R&D Center will help bring the benefits of tomorrow's technology to industry and more broadly to society," Jing Wang, Baidu's senior vice president, said in a company press release. 

This is a big win for the Chinese company, and could signal their future direction. The hire suggests Baidu may be further developing research into artificial intelligence. 

The company launched its Institute of Deep Learning in 2013. That group is researching advanced systems for voice recognition and natural language processing. 

While some of this research could help develop new generations of robots, online advertising could also become more selective and targeted. 

"Andrew is the ideal individual to lead our research efforts as we enter an era where AI plays an increasingly pronounced role," Robin Li, Baidu's chairman and chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Google and Facebook have also recently acquired new talent for their research departments.

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