China’s Baidu Scores Artificial-Intelligence Coup

Opening a new front in Silicon Valley's latest arms race, the Chinese Internet company Baidu said Friday that it has hired former Google and longtime Stanford researcher Andrew Ng as chief scientist to run its artificial intelligence research labs in Sunnyvale and Beijing.

Ng, who is also co-founder of the online education company Coursera, is a highly regarded computer scientist who worked on artificial intelligence projects at Google's secretive X division, where he helped create a "neural network" of computers that famously taught itself to recognize images of cats by analyzing thousands of YouTube videos.

The hire is a significant coup for Baidu, which operates China's leading Internet search engine. The company has not indicated any plans to enter the U.S. market, but it has followed the lead of other major foreign tech firms by opening a research office in Silicon Valley -- where it hopes to tap the region's talent pool and gain more prominence within the tech industry.

Ng's move is another sign that leading Internet companies are pouring resources into artificial intelligence research, which they believe will help them deliver more personalized online services and advertising. As this newspaper reported last month, Facebook, Google and other top companies have been vying to acquire top talent in the field by buying smaller companies and hiring leading university researchers.

"Andrew is the ideal individual to lead our research efforts as we enter an era where AI plays an increasingly pronounced role," Robin Li, the chief executive of Baidu, said in a prepared statement that hailed Ng as "a true visionary and key contributor to the field of artificial intelligence."

While artificial intelligence is a broad term, it generally refers to sophisticated computer systems that can analyze vast amounts of data and learn to identify items or even anticipate outcomes. Ng is known for pioneering...

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