Baidu sets up machine-learning lab next door to Apple HQ

Baidu has begun mining Silicon Valley for talent which it hopes will help it carve out its place alongside tech's all-stars.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

China's answer to Google, Baidu, has opened a lab dedicated to machine learning research near Apple's Cupertino headquarters.

Baidu's CEO Robin Li in January announced the search company's ambition to become a leader in machine learning technologies, already beginning to appear in services like Apple's Siri and Google Street View. 

The company's efforts, he said, would be led by a new research group called the Institute of Deep Learning (IDL), which Li hoped would come to follow in the footsteps of AT&T's Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. However, there was no sign at the time that Baidu eyeing establishing a lab in the US.

According to Wired, Baidu's Cupertino-based IDL will be led by Kai Yu, the company's head of speech-recognition and image-recognition, who is in the US looking to hire the lab's first researcher.

"We have a really big dream of using deep learning to simulate the functionality, the power, the intelligence of the human brain," Yu told Wired.

One reason Yu cites for Baidu's voyage to Cupertino, which began a year ago, is the depth of engineering and science talent the region offers to companies like Google.

Yu himself joined Baidu in April last year from NEC Labs' in California, where he led its media analytics department and explored, amongst other things, machine learning.

One of Yu's Baidu researchers is also responsible for the company's recently discovered Google Glass-like prototype called Baidu Eye, according to Wired. However, as Baidu noted at the time, it had no current plans to bring the product to market.

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