Google invests in Chinese AI firm Mobvoi

Google is investing in Chinese artificial intelligence firm Mobvoi, which plans to develop consumer-oriented wearable technology products.
Written by Chris Duckett on

Google has taken a stake in a Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) startup that is aiming to develop smart wearable technologies, the companies have said.

The amount invested in Mobvoi was not disclosed, but the companies said the firm, created by a former Google researcher, has now raised $75 million in equity financing.

Google will lead the latest round and hold a minority stake, according to the statement released on Tuesday.

The move comes five years after Google's highly contentious exit from its Chinese operations over censorship.

"Mobvoi is very excited to welcome Google as an investor, as both companies share a long-term view on technologies and are dedicated to deliver an uncompromising user experience through emerging technologies," said Mobvoi founder Zhifei Li.

The new funding is aimed at helping develop "a new generation of wearable experiences and explore consumer-oriented products for the in-vehicle environment", as well as exploring robotics technologies.

"Mobvoi has developed some very unique speech and natural language-processing technologies," said Don Harrison, vice president of corporate development at Google. "We were impressed by their innovative approach and the early traction that they've seen, which is why we're pleased to support them with this investment."

The two firms announced an agreement earlier this year to bring the Google Android Wear operating system to China.

Last year, Google Capital teamed up with Lightspeed China Partners to make its first investment in China, backing a $38 million Series C funding round for Chinese high-speed optical transceiver supplier InnoLight Technology Corporation.

In September, the United States and China signed an agreement to prevent economic espionage from being conducted online; however, an American cloud security company has alleged that Chinese actors are still attempting to break into US companies.

"Over the last three weeks, CrowdStrike Falcon platform has detected and prevented a number of intrusions into our customers' systems from actors we have affiliated with the Chinese government," CrowdStrike co-founder and CTO Dmitri Alperovitch said.

Apple this week pulled hundreds of iOS apps off its store for making use of the Chinese-developed Youmi mobile advertising framework that was using private API calls to gather personal information on users.

"The apps using Youmi's SDK have been removed from the App Store and any new apps submitted to the App Store using this SDK will be rejected," Apple said.

Earlier this year, ZenPayroll also scored a $60 million Series B funding round led by Google Capital.

This time last year, Google joined with Qualcomm to lead a $542 million Series B fundraising effort for Florida-based augmented-reality developer Magic Leap. The two tech giants were also joined by Legendary Entertainment and its CEO Thomas Hull, private equity firm KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, and Obvious Ventures, among others.

The investment in Magic Leap was made by Google rather than its Google Capital arm.

With AAP

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