Baidu steps up AI efforts with Kitt.ai acquisition, Nvidia partnership

Kitt.ai is known for its conversational language engine called ChatFlow and a customizable "hotword" detection platform named Snowboy.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor
Image: Baidu

Chinese search engine giant Baidu is expanding on its AI efforts with the acquisition of a Seattle-based startup and a partnership with US chipmaker Nvidia.

On the acquisition front, Baidu is scooping up Kitt.ai, makers of a conversational language engine called ChatFlow and a customizable "hotword" detection platform named Snowboy. The platforms are deployed in things like smartphone apps, speakers, appliances, and chatbots, and apparently have sold well enough to make Kitt.ai profitable.

In a blog post, Kitt.ai co-founder Xuchen Yao said joining Baidu will allow the three-man startup to bring its technology to more developers using machine learning and natural language processing technologies in their products.

"Today KITT.AI joins Baidu, a search, AI, and autonomous driving company, to continue a joint mission of making the complex world simpler with (natural language understanding) technologies," Yao wrote in the post.

See also: Bosch, Nvidia, Grab join Baidu's autonomous driving alliance

As for the Nvidia partnership, the two companies plan to work together on AI research, with Baidu deploying some of Nvidia's server hardware in its data centers to advance its deep learning platform and conversational AI system, and improve its ability to process data from images, speech text, and video.

Nvidia and Baidu also announced plans to optimize Baidu's PaddlePaddle deep learning framework for Nvidia's GPUs and add Baidu's DuerOS AI system to Nvidia's Shield TV set top box.

Autonomous vehicle technology is a common focus area for the two companies, and they announced today that Baidu will adopt Nvidia's DRIVE PX platform for its self-driving car initiative, with the goal of developing self-driving cars with major Chinese automakers.

"NVIDIA and Baidu have pioneered significant advances in deep learning and AI," said Ian Buck, NVIDIA vice president and general manager of accelerated computing. "We believe AI is the most powerful technology force of our time, with the potential to revolutionize every industry. Our collaboration aligns our exceptional technical resources to create AI computing platforms for all developers -- from academic research, startups creating breakthrough AI applications, and autonomous vehicles."

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