WeChat parent Tencent is opening an A.I. lab in Seattle led by former Microsoft researcher

The Tencent building in China. (Tencent Photo)

Tencent, the Chinese tech titan behind WeChat and a wide range of other services, plans to double down on artificial intelligence with a new research center in Seattle. Tencent has tapped former Microsoft Principal Researcher Dong Yu to run the Seattle operation.

“We are opening a new AI research Lab at Seattle area and we are hiring self-motivated researchers/scientists with Ph.D. degrees and ambition in AI related fields,” Yu’s LinkedIn says.

The Information first reported the news of Tencent’s Seattle expansion.

Subtle branding suggested Tencent set up shop at a co-working space in Seattle last summer. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Last summer, GeekWire spotted Tencent’s logo in a Galvanize co-working space in Seattle, though the A.I. operation will likely be its own dedicated facility.

Tencent already has researchers working on A.I. but so far their efforts haven’t been centralized in one facility. The team is currently working on a voice-controlled assistant, like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana, according to The Information.

Tencent wouldn’t be the first Chinese corporation to mine Seattle’s rich talent pool. Amazon competitor Alibaba also runs an A.I. lab in the area. It’s part of a broader trend of companies with headquarters outside of Seattle setting up research and engineering centers here.

See GeekWire’s full list of engineering centers from outside companies here.