Lin Yuanqing, former director of Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning (IDL) overseeing the Chinese tech giant’s endeavor in facial recognition technology, has stepped down, local media is reporting. Lin will move onto starting his own venture, with the aim to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to the upgrade of traditional industries.

Baidu has lost a couple of key leaders in recent months. In March its chief scientist Andrew Ng, a globally respected figure in the field of deep learning, resigned. Baidu then consolidated its existing research groups under a new leader, Haifeng Wang. In September, Adam Coates, director of Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab, also left, but both Coates and Baidu declined to comment on the departure.

Lin has contributed to a range of Baidu’s AI businesses, from deep learning to autonomous driving, since joining in November 2015. He is considered an important face during Baidu IDL’s “golden age.” IDL is one of three labs under Baidu’s research umbrella alongside the Silicon Valley AI Lab and the Big Data Lab.

“He brings deep technology expertise to our IDL team in Beijing and Silicon Valley,” Ng once says of Lin.

Baidu’s founder Robin Li and COO Lu Qi have tried to keep him, Lin says (in Chinese): “I will be actively working with Baidu after starting my own company. I feel that I’m still part of the big AI family even though I’m leaving now.”

Baidu, once known as the Google of China, has shifted its focus from web services to AI. The pivot was marked earlier this year by the appointment of Lu Qi, a legendary engineer emerged from Microsoft.  Sogou—which also hailed from the search business (with a less significant market share in China)—has also announced to step up its AI and filed for an IPO in the US.

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.

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