China search engine operator Baidu has set up a new specialist unit - the Duer Business Unit - that focuses on developing its conversational artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robot.
The company is looking to prioritise commercialising voice-activated devices and services, South China Morning Post reported on 16 February 2017.
According to Baidu, the creation of the new unit heightens its development focus on "Duer," the company's AI-powered digital assistant that can connect people with services through conversational user interface.
First unveiled in September 2015 as an conversational AI system, Duer functions similarly to Apple's personal assistant Siri.
Baidu also acquired Beijing startup Raven Tech, a specialist in applying voice-controlled AI to smart home systems. Neither party revealed the value of the takeover.
Founded in 2014, Raven Tech has already made a strong name for itself in the field of human/mobile interaction. Its line of products include a voice-enabled music search app called Music Flow, which has millions of users.
"[The acquisition] is key for Baidu to have a leading position in human/machine interaction and built up core strength in software and hardware integration," said Lu Qi, Chief Operating Officer, Baidu.
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