Baidu, the Chinese search giant, has launched an Augmented Reality Lab as it focuses on developing new technologies and AR-based applications.
The lab, which is a spin-off from Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning (IDL), will seek to leverage the search provider’s technology and customer base to create AR applications powered by AI technologies such as computer vision and deep learning.
The move builds on the company’s AR platform for smartphones, DuSee, which it launched in August 2016. Baidu has created AR marketing experiences for clients such as L’Oreal China, KFC China, Lancome, and Mercedes-Benz.
Andrew Ng, chief scientist of Baidu and the head of Baidu Research, said, "Our cell phone-based approach has enabled us to ship augmented reality experiences to a significant number of users in a very short amount of time. There is an appetite for this technology; we are seeing rapid adoption by our partners in a range of industries."
The AR Lab is the latest in a string of investments as the search giant seeks to expand its services, after a change in advertising regulations delivered a 16% drop in advertising customers.
Baidu has allocated $200 million to fund AR and AI technologies under the Baidu Research division, which includes the Big Data Lab, Silicon Valley Lab, Institute of Deep Learning, and now the AR Lab.
This week, Baidu hired Qi Lu, a former Microsoft executive vice president responsible for AI across Office, Bing and Skype, to lead its AI division.
Baidu’s AR technology is currently available in Mobile Baidu, Baidu Maps and local services app Baidu Nuomi. Starting this week, Beijing subway users can use their smartphones to view 3D simulations of the city's historical gates by activating the camera function within the Mobile Baidu app.
Baidu has also announced a partnership with mapping company Here, which will see Baidu Maps roll out in more than 150 countries.