BEIJING/SAN FRANCISCO: Google has launched an artificial intelligence game in the form of a mini-app that will sit within Tencent’s WeChat platform, a sign not only of the company’s ambition to re-enter China’s consumer market but also of a future characterised by AI rather than Ad tech.

The game, ‘Caihua Xiaoge’, which has quickly become popular in China, is a AI-enhanced game in which the user and computer play in partnership. The user is prompted with the name of an object, which they then draw on their phone screens and the AI – driven by Google Cloud’s neural network – will guess what it is. Competitors progress up the leader board according to the number of correct guesses in a series.

It comes a year after Google launched the Google Translate app in China. In May, according to Reuters, the company added a file management app for the Chinese market.

In an article on TNT Post, the Chinese business and strategy website, translated by the Oxford scholar Jeffrey Ding, the app is termed one of the first instances in which Chinese users will have encountered Google’s AI technology. TNT suggests it is a relatively gentle “landing” for the technology in a new and competitive market, a way to feel its way through.

The creation of an ‘applet,’ as it is called in the piece, combines well with Tencent’s current focus to make mini-apps that sit within its platform. According to the company there are over a million such small programs.

Google, it seems, is alive to China’s AI prowess. Last December, the company established its first AI lab in China. "In the AI field, China has already become one of the most important leaders. In Imagenet, Kaggle, basic science research, and other aspects, China has achieved great results”, said Fei-fei Li, Chief Scientist at Google Cloud, speaking at the Google China Developers Conference. “Apart from publishing our own results, the Google AI lab will also, through funding AI-related seminars and Chinese AI talent, support the AI research community.”

Elsewhere, Google has partnered with the Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to launch the ARCore augmented reality platform on devices. Last month, Google announced a major ($550 million) investment in the Chinese e-commerce giant

The strategy in China points to the reality behind Google CEO, Sundar Pichai’s, project to drive the company’s dominance in AI through cloud computing, the system through which such intense computing can actually work. Though the company still makes 90% of its money from advertising, its AI play is now beginning to bring in as much as $1bn in revenue each quarter, according to Cloud CEO Diane Greene. Recently, Google Cloud added a hat-trick of large multinational companies as customers: Target, Carrefour, and PwC.

Such a route won’t be easy. Though there are opportunities, and entering China may prove to be a major one, both Amazon and Microsoft are strong rivals that bring in far more of their revenue from cloud computing systems.

Speaking to investors earlier this week, however, Pichai remained bullish. “It feels far from a zero-sum game,” he said. “Businesses are going to embrace multiple clouds over time too. So, I think not only is this early, but I think it is going to transform. And there is a lot of opportunity here.”

Sourced from Reuters, TNT Post, Quartz; additional content by WARC staff