Google has reportedly taken a minority stake in Mobvoi, a Beijing startup that develops Chinese-language speech recognition technology for mobile devices.
The investment, first reported by the Financial Times, shows ongoing interest by Google (GOOG) in artificial intelligence technologies, particularly speech recognition, natural language processing, and of course, search.
The deal also demonstrates Google’s interest in China, whose almost 700 million Internet users dwarf the total population of the United States. China is estimated to add tens of millions of new Internet users every year. Google would like a stronger search presence in China, but has faced difficulty competing with homegrown alternatives Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.
Mobvoi was founded in 2012 by Zhifei Li, a former research scientist at Google. The startup struck a partnership with Google earlier this year to provide search and speech recognition for Android Wear, the Google operating system for wearable devices.
The Financial Times reports that the stake was between 10% and 20%.
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