Tencent launches AI accelerator as part of broader strategy


Chinese gaming and social networking giant Tencent’s artificial intelligence (AI) strategy has been revealed. It officially launched its AI accelerator on July 21, with 25 startups selected out of almost one thousand candidates over the past 3 months.

Tencent said it would provide technology, marketing, management, investment, and other guidance to these AI startups during the six-month acceleration period.

These startups focus on different areas, including translation, medical services, auto-driving, recycling, etc. Zhuli Laiye, for instance, is dedicated to providing personal assistance services by combining AI and real person assistants. Huishoubao, a recycling service startup, tries to price recycled smart phones and other goods automatically by leveraging AI technology.

However, the AI accelerator initiative is only one part of Tencent’s broader AI strategy.

According to Yao Xing, Vice President of Tencent, there are three AI teams inside the company, including the Tencent YouTu Lab, the WeChat AI team, and the Tencent AI Lab.

Founded in 2012, Tencent YouTu Lab belongs to the Tencent Social Network Group (SNG), located in Shanghai and Hefei. The Lab mainly focuses on image processing, pattern recognition, machine learning, and data mining. It claims to provide technical support to more than 50 companies’ image business applications, such as Qzone, StoryCamera, and Pitu.

Tencent’s most popular social networking app, WeChat, also has an AI team dedicated to voice recognition and pattern recognition research. The key application of its research is the voice-to-text function inside the WeChat app.

Photo from Tencent AI Lab

Tencent AI Lab was established in April of 2016 with much more spotlight. The lab belongs to Tencent Technology and Engineering Group (TEG) and is located in Shenzhen and Seattle. It claims to have 50 world-class AI scientists, researchers, and experts, and focuses on machine learning, computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language processing. This lab rose to fame after its AI robot, Fine Art, won first place with 11 consecutive wins at the 10th Computer Go UEC Cup, held in Japan in March 2017.

“For Tencent, AI is the key technology of the next era,” Yao said at the launch event. “But, since AI is in an early stage, we don’t want to show off too much.”

(Top photo from openculture.com)

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