Tencent is a Chinese tech company founded in 1998 and based in Shenzhen that hosts 55% of China’s mobile internet usage on its platforms. Its mission is to “become the most respected internet enterprise.” The company is China’s biggest social network company with 1 billion users on its app WeChat and 632 million monthly user accounts on social networking platform Qzone, is worth more than Facebook and has extended beyond instant messaging (its product is QQ) and social networking to gaming, digital assistants, mobile payments, cloud storage, education, live streaming, sports, movies and artificial intelligence. The company’s dedication to artificial intelligence is evident in one of its slogans, “AI in all.”
Artificial Intelligence Labs Opened by Tencent
In 2016, Tencent opened an AI lab in Shenzhen with a vision to “Make AI Everywhere.” Its focus is on research in machine learning, speech recognition, natural language processing and computer vision and to develop practical AI applications four business in the areas of content, online games, social and cloud services. The AI team behind the scenes is composed of 50 research scientists and more than 200 engineers in China and the United States.
Tencent’s YouTu Lab is a leader in the field of machine learning. It’s credited with dozens of leading technologies in image, face and audio analysis. The innovative output from the YouTu Lab is integrating AI technology into cloud services, intelligent hardware and more to improve the surfing experience of the internet.
Tencent has opened up a new lab in Bellevue, Wash. and Dr. Dong Yu, a former Microsoft employee who is well-known four his work with speech recognition technologies leads the lab. The lab leverages the talented Seattle-area workforce who are primarily focused on natural language processing and speech recognition systems. The company has the finances to compete four top AI talent and the data acquisition to help train AI algorithms.
Tencent’s Artificial Intelligence Priorities
As part of the quad of companies that were identified by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology to develop the next generation of AI technologies, Tencent is forging ahead with new tech investments, research and development.
Tencent is a top investor (reported to be $120 million) in robotics start-up UBTech, a firm that focuses on humanoid robots. Quite possibly UBTech’s most famous contribution is Walker, a bipedal robot unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show that can walk downstairs. Of the Chinese tech firms known collectively as BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), Tencent participated in the greatest number of AI equity deals and made the most AI investments in the United States.
In partnership with several industry players including the Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC), Tencent is invested in developing AI technologies to be used in autonomous-driving vehicles.
Healthcare AI is a main priority four Tencent, based on the company’s investments and AI partnerships. China would like to be a world leader in personalised medicine using AI. More than 38,000 medical institutions have a WeChat account and 60% of those institutions allow patients to book appointments online. Additionally, there are 2,000 hospitals that accept WeChat payment. These services allow Tencent to collect valuable consumer data that helps train AI algorithms. In a recent partnership with Babylon Health, WeChat users will have access to a virtual healthcare assistant. Pushing the envelope even further, Tencent invested in iCarbonX, a company that aims to develop a digital representation of individuals to help perfect personalised medicine.
Tencent’s internal R&D efforts resulted in the development of the Miying healthcare AI platform that launched in 2017. This platform helps healthcare professionals diagnose various types of cancers and analyse and manage healthcare records. The company also has some recent investments in pharmaceutical projects.
Tencent is a critical player in China’s ambition to be a world-leader four artificial intelligence. Since AI is expected to transform all kinds of industries, we can also expect the footprint and AI investment by Tencent will only increase as well.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.