January 27, 2014
Google Buys AI Startup DeepMind
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Everyone is thinking about artificial intelligence of late, and Google just snapped up London-based startup DeepMind to gain an edge in this market. The acquisition occurred for a reported $400 million, Re/code reports. Some reports put the price tag up over $500 million, as reported by TechCrunch.
DeepMind was founded by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis with partners Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman. DeepMind combines techniques from machine learning and systems neurosciences to build general-purpose algorithms.
The race is on for artificial intelligence, also called deep learning. In December, Facebook formed an AI group headed by NYU professor Yann LeCun. The group will work in partnership with NYU on projects. Facebook reportedly was in talks last year to acquire DeepMind, TechCrunch reports. While Google has some expertise in this area, and has publications on the subject, it is looking to strengthen its abilities in AI and deep learning.
"This is in large part an artificial intelligence talent acquisition, and Google CEO Larry Page led the deal himself, sources said. According to online bios, Hassibis in particular is quite a talent, a child prodigy in chess who was later called 'probably the best games player in history' by the Mind Sports Olympiad," Re/code's Liz Gannes wrote.
While information on the DeepMind website is sparse, sources name Founders Fund as a major investor, Re/code said. Horizon Ventures is also named as an investor, as well as Skype and Kazaa developer Jaan Tallinn, who is also an advisor for the company. Funding for the company has tallied over $50 million, according to reports.
DeepMind has aggressively recruited in the AI space recently, according to sources. The company has a team of at least 50 people. The acquisition will give Google a new lead in the AI race.
"Google's hiring of DeepMind will help it compete against other major tech companies as tey all try to gain business advantages by focusing on deep learning," TechCrunch's Catherine Shu wrote.
"This is the latest move by Google to fill out its roster of artificial intelligence experts," Shu wrote. "If all three of DeepMind's founders work for Google, they will join inventor, entrepreneur, author and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who was hired in 2012 as a director of engineering focused on machine learning and language processing."
Artificial intelligence is a developing field that brings up moral responsibility, The Information reports.
"Google, which is acquiring DeepMind Technologies, has agreed to establish an ethics board to ensure the artificial intelligence technology isn’t abused, according to two people familiar with the deal," the Information's Amir Efrati wrote.
"DeepMind's technology aims to make computers think like humans and has been used in demonstrations of computers playing video games. Like many other innovations, the technology could be used to controversial ends. The DeepMind-Google ethics board, which DeepMind pushed for, will devise rules for how Google can and can't use the technology. The structure of the board is unclear," The Information's Efrati wrote.