Google is making its way back to China quietly but surely, and it has gotten a little more proactive. An HTML5 advertisement for the Google Translate app has appeared on the WeChat Moments news stream recently. The ad features the legendary Asian-American rapper MC Jin using the app’s Word Lens feature, which enables visual translation between Chinese and English. Users who use the app to snap a photo of anything containing text will get an instant translation of the text.
The Word Lens feature has big potential in China as the country is now the top spender on outbound tourism. Chinese tech companies going overseas are also chasing after this demographic. Payment giants WeChat and Alipay are now available in dozens of countries where Chinese tourists and diaspora abound.
While the search engine giant pulled out of mainland China more than seven years ago, its translation service has remained accessible via a web version since then. In March, an app version of Google Translate—available on iOS and Android—became accessible on mainland China without requiring a special connection.
Google has also been on a hiring spree for their soon-to-open AI lab in Beijing. The company has sought to remain visible in the world’s second-largest economy by luring the country’s engineers and startups into using Tensorflow, an AI platform that makes development easier.
Google faces fierce competition in the country as China is on pace to become a global leader in artificial intelligence. Search engines Baidu, once dubbed the “Google of China”, and Sogou, who recently went IPO in the US, are both pivoting away from merely being a tool and upping their AI ante.