Google Invests In Mobvoi, Its Android Wear Partner In China

20 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google invests in Chinese artificial intelligence start-up Mobvoi.

Hong Kong: Google is making its first direct investment in a Chinese firm, an artificial-intelligence start-up, since mostly quitting the country in 2010 over censorship concerns. BEIJING: Google will take a minority stake in Beijing-based artificial intelligence firm Mobvoi as part of a US$75mil (RM321.30mil) fundraising round, the startup said, as the US search giant tries to rebuild its presence in China. Mobvoi works on artificial intelligence (AI) voice-controlled software, like that used in Google’s Android products for mobile search, and also develops hardware like smart watches.

The Google-led Series C fundraising values Mobvoi at US$300mil (RM1.28bil), with the startup maintaining a controlling stake, said co-founder Li Yuanyuan in a telephone interview. In 2014, a growth equity arm of the corporation called Google Capital invested in InnoLight Technology, a Suzhou-based company that makes high-speed data transmission hardware. “Mobvoi is very excited to welcome Google as an investor as both companies share a long-term view on technologies,” Li Zhifei, the company founder and a former Google employee, said in a statement without specifying the amount that the Mountain View, California-company is investing. In 2010, Google said it wouldn’t self-censor content for Chinese services, and then shut its local search page and directed users to its Hong Kong website. The deal, not Google’s first in China but one of few, comes as the company seeks to re-establish itself in the world’s largest Internet market by population of users. Because services like its search, e-mail and mapping are blocked in China, the US firm is trying to cement partnerships with domestic providers like Mobvoi, which offers technology similar to Apple Inc’s Siri and Google’s own version.

Mobvoi, founded by two former Google employees who worked in translation and voice search at the California campus, will use the money to strengthen its artificial intelligence development, explore smart car technologies and hire more people. CEO Sundar Pichai has made no secret that he wants to get back into China, with his bet riding on Google Play, the app store for its Android mobile operating system, despite it currently being borderline inaccessible in China.

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