Sportel Asia Conference
Visitors and exhibitors network at the Tencent booth during the Sportel Asia Conference on March 15, 2016 in Singapore.  Sean Lee—Getty Images/Sportel

Chinese Social Media Giant Tencent Steps Up Its A.I. Push With a Research Lab in Seattle

May 02, 2017

Chinese social media and gaming giant Tencent Holdings (tcehy) said Tuesday it will open an artificial intelligence (AI) research facility in Seattle in the United States, to be led by former Microsoft (msft) scientist Yu Dong.

Yu, who has been appointed as deputy head of Tencent 's AI Lab division, will run the new lab as well as spearhead research in speech recognition and natural language understanding, the company said.

Tencent , which owns the popular WeChat messaging app, is Asia's most valuable company with a market capitalization of nearly $300 billion.

Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent is one of a number of Chinese technology juggernauts that are stepping up efforts in AI research. Tencent 's WeChat has more than 889 million monthly active users.

Tencent has more than 50 researchers and more than 200 engineers at its AI Lab in Shenzhen, which was established in April 2016, according to the company.

For more on artificial intelligence, watch Fortune's video:

China's "Big Three" tech firms - Tencent , Baidu (bidu) and Alibaba (baba) - have been competing to attract top-notch talent.

Yu, a speech recognition and deep learning expert, was the principal researcher at Microsoft Research Institute's Speech and Dialog Gro up before joining Tencent .

Baidu suffered a setback to its AI ambitions after its chief scientist Andrew Ng resigned in March, shortly before Tencent announced it has poached Baidu's former big data director Zhang Tong to head up its AI Lab.

Yu is looking to build a team of around 20 for the Seattle lab, according to Tencent .

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.

Quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Interactive Data. ETF and Mutual Fund data provided by Morningstar, Inc. Dow Jones Terms & Conditions: http://www.djindexes.com/mdsidx/html/tandc/indexestandcs.html. S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions