The AI ambitions of Chinese tech giant Baidu have received a setback this morning, with the news that the company’s chief scientist, Andrew Ng, is leaving the firm in April. Ng moved to Baidu in 2014 from online education platform Coursera after previously founding the Google Brain project, and is one of the leading voices in the field of artificial intelligence. He announced his forthcoming departure from Baidu today, writing in a blog post on Medium that he will continue his work in AI “to shepherd in this important societal change.”
“Baidu’s AI is incredibly strong, and the team is stacked up and down with talent; I am confident AI at Baidu will continue to flourish,” writes Ng. “After Baidu, I am excited to continue working toward the AI transformation of our society and the use of AI to make life better for everyone.”
Baidu has emerged as one of the world’s leading AI companies, with CEO Robin Li declaring in March that “the era of mobile internet has ended” and that the firm will now “aggressively invest in AI.” According to a report from Bloomberg, Baidu has a research budget of 20 billion yuan or $2.9 billion, with most of this going towards AI. The company’s machine learning group numbers more than 1,300 engineers, and produces both research and commercial products in a wide range of areas, including self-driving cars, facial recognition, and medical chatbots.
It’s not known where Ng’s work will take him next, but it’s clear he’s still heavily invested in the AI industry. He writes: “Just as electricity transformed many industries roughly 100 years ago, AI will also now change nearly every major industry — healthcare, transportation, entertainment, manufacturing — enriching the lives of countless people. I am more excited than ever about where AI can take us.”