Baidu has appointed three senior AI scientists to its Baidu USA AI division, following the high profile departure last year of Baidu AI head Andrew Ng and several others. The company also announced two new AI labs one for business intelligence, one for robotics and autonomous driving.

New hires

The AI scientists are Dr. Ken Church, Dr. Hui Xiong, and Dr. Jun (Luke) Huan. All three will be working at Baidu’s Sunnyvale campus.

Dr Kenneth Church specializes in natural language processing and has worked at IBM’s Watson Research Center and Microsoft. His new colleague Dr Jun Huan is an expert in big data and data mining and Dr Hui Xiong in data and knowledge engineering.

Baidu’s release quotes Dr Church as saying:

“AI’s significance is already evident. In addition to its commitment to fundamental research, Baidu is also in a unique position to transfer AI technology from the laboratory into reality and make the world a better place for hundreds of millions of people. I’m excited to join this talented group of researchers and engineers at Baidu to explore the next frontier of AI.”

Andrew Ng’s departure was a significant blow for Baidu’s AI efforts. The man behind Google Brain, he had been in charge of Baidu AI from 2014. After Ng’s departure in March 2017 (which he announced himself on Medium) he was replaced by Wang Haifeng.

Baidu has suffered multiple high profile departures besides Ng, many of whom are now going on to new ventures. In December 2017 Baidu announced it was suing its former senior vice-president Wang Jin for RMB 50 million for stealing its autonomous driving secrets for the startup he left Baidu to form. The month before, genetics company Wuxi Nextcode snapped up Baidu veteran John Gu and Lin Yuanqing who left in September and whose AI startup Aibee has just secured funding.

New labs

The two labs are aimed at improving fundamental AI research. The Robotics and Autonomous Driving Lab (RADL) will concentrate on computer vision, particularly that used for autonomous driving. The Business Intelligence Lab (BIL) will aim to improve the commercialization of AI and related technologies.

The two new labs will bring Baidu Research’s to a total of five. The existing three being the Institute of Deep Learning, the Big Data Lab and the Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence Lab.