Chinese search giant Baidu has acquired Raven Tech, a Chinese startup focusing on artificial intelligence and next-generation operating systems, the companies announced today. No financial details of the deal were disclosed.
Cheng Lu, Raven Tech’s founder, will join Baidu to lead the company’s smart home device business and will work with the Duer team on new product development.
Founded in 2014, the Beijing-based company is engaged in AI technology that especially applied to smart home systems.
The company’s IM+AI chatbot Flow is a voice-based search engine and operation system that supports services from third-party apps. The app features a minimalist black-white interface. With simple voice command, users have an all-in-one experience no matter they want to play music, find restaurants or plan a journey.
Services from mainstream apps like Uber and Dianping are supported. In addition, all the information found in Flow can be shared with friends.
In the rising smart home wave, the company’s also going for hardware market with the launch of Raven H-1, a Lego-like smart home assistant that users could customize different molds for different purposes. The product finished its campaign on JD’s crowdfunding site last year.
The startup has previously received tens of millions of US dollars in investment from ZhenFund, Matrix Partners China, Y Combinator, DCM, and Magic Stone Alternative. Raven Tech is the fifth alumni of Microsoft Venture Accelerator and the only startup team from mainland China in Y Combinator W15.
This deal is among a series of moves as Baidu pushes towards AI and deep learning industry through Baidu Research headed by Andrew Ng.
Although the AI industry is just now recording a boom, it is just as crowded as other red-hot internet verticals in China. In addition to Baidu’s Siri-like assistant Duer, there’s also a slew of similar services from Chinese speech-recognition technology developer iFLYTEK and Chumen Wenwen, a mobile voice search service headed by ex-Googlers.