Baidu Inc announced Tuesday that it will set up an independent venture capital firm to focus on investing in early-stage high-tech innovative projects related to artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and virtual reality, according to media reports.
The company, named Baidu -Venture, has received the first round of funding of $200 million, -chinanews.com reported on Tuesday.
Baidu CEO Li Yanhong will serve as chairman of the firm and of its investment committee. He will participate in the review and assessment of the projects, said the report.
Baidu Venture will operate independently from Baidu, with innovative assessment mechanisms to accelerate the decision-making process and boost the company's investment efficiency, domestic news portal -leiphone.com reported on Tuesday.
Leading AI scientists, including those in Baidu, will be invited to serve as consultants, leiphone.com noted.
It is another milestone in Baidu's strategic move into the AI sector, which Li said "will be a core tool for remarkable changes in daily life, just as electricity was over a century ago."
He spoke at the Baidu World -Conference on September 1, the Xinhua News Agency reported the same day.
Allen Zhu, managing director of GSR Venture, said the AI sector "has already attracted investment from the capital market."
Zhu predicted that it will be "the next promising investment opportunity after the Internet."
In 2015, China's market for AI amounted to 1.2 billion yuan ($179.65 million), according to consultancy iResearch Consulting Group.
The sector is expected to reach 9.1 billion yuan in 2020.
Baidu is one of the pioneers in the field. Earlier this month, the company unveiled its AI system called Baidu Brain, which is able to recognize and process speech, images and words, as well as build user profiles, said Xinhua's report.
It launched the Institute of Deep Learning in 2013 to develop AI technology, chinanews.com noted.
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