Alphabet Inc’s Google launches AI-based ‘mini app’ eyeing Chinese market

Although much of its core apps, including Google Search, email and appstore have been blocked in China, the launch of Caihua Xiaoge, a drawing game based on its image recognition technology, is aimed at gaining a toehold in the Chinese market.

On Wednesday, in a development that underscores Alphabet Inc’s intention to re-enter China’s consumer market, its subsidiary Google disclosed that it has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) game on China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd social media app WeChat.

Currently, Chinese authorities have clamped down on Google’s search engine, email and app store in the country and have blocked access to them citing censorship concerns.

Despite these headwinds, in May 2017, Google had launched its file management app in China, on top of its ‘Google Translate’ app.

Google’s latest app, Caihua Xiaoge, is a drawing game based on Google’s AI image recognition technology. Essentially it is a WeChat ‘mini app’, since it works only within Tencent’s WeChat.

The majority of foreign firms, including Starbucks Corp, face such a restrictive environment in China and have to make do with mini apps.

In January 2018, Google had entered into a patent licensing deal with Tencent in order to deepen its penetration of the Chinese market.

In June 2018, Google invested $550 million in JD.com Inc, China’s second most valuable e-commerce firm which also counts Tencent as an investor.

While China has promised to open its economy to foreign companies, it remains to be seen whether it will allow its citizens access to Google’s global search engine, just like the rest of the citizens of other countries do.

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