(Yicai Global) Sept. 11 -- Chinese tech and gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. [HKG:0700] is ready to invest heavily in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and Big Data, founder Pony Ma said in a speech to Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management on Sept. 8.
"I feel that we are ready to invest in several basic fields," said Ma, who Forbes' ranks as the eighth richest man in tech worldwide. "First, AI. Second, cloud computing, and third, Big Data. We will work with a range of sectors, academics and researchers via Internet Plus and other means."
Internet plus is used to refer to the application of the internet and other information technology to traditional industries.
All future technologies will be inseparable from these three areas, he added. "When they are combined, we will have a role to play. Scenarios and markets are the most important. As long as you have markets -- technologies, talents and new technologies will follow. This is the future we are talking about."
Ma also believes that with deep algorithms, artificial intelligence can play a major role in medicine. The firm's recently released Tencent Miying is an AI technology that reads medical images to help doctors screen cancers and detect and treat diseases early and accurately.
Artificial intelligence can also be applied to finance, robotics and other fields as well as every aspect of commerce and daily life. "I think this is the general trend," Ma said.
However, no matter how well AI develops, it can only provide technical support and assistance for humans, he added. "Strategic, complicated and non-repetitive things would still require human brains and judgment.
Tencent is looking for opportunities in business segments where AI and information technologies can be used, Ma continued.
People have been talking about the use of cloud computing for many years, and a clearer picture is now being painted, he believes. In the past, many firms put data on corporate intranets but were unwilling to publish them online. Things are different now.
"It's like electricity," the Tencent founder said. "It's impossible for you to build your own power plant at home and not use the public power grid. That's completely unfeasible."
Electricity consumption has previously been used as a measure of a society's industrial development, and Ma believes cloud consumption could become an important gauge of digital economic development.
"In the future, all firms will use AI technology to handle Big Data in the cloud," he added. "Anything relating to cloud and artificial intelligence will involve Big Data. This is, without doubt, the future direction."
Tencent has a dedicated task force in the US led by David Wallerstein, whose job title is chief exploration officer, Ma said.
"Many products and investment directions, such as space exploration and satellite companies that he is looking at, are not something Tencent is currently engaging in. But we have invested in them."
The Arabian satellite company which Tencent has invested in can take near-ground pictures in real or quasi-real time by using small satellites, he said, adding that the firm has also invested in biomedicine firms.