Google has expanded its artificial intelligence research team, acquiring two Oxford University spin-off companies specialising in machine learning and computer vision.
Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory and their seven key researchers will be added to Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence research company – another British artificial intelligence startup which the search giant acquired in January.
“We are thrilled to welcome these extremely talented machine learning researchers to the Google DeepMind team and are excited about the potential impact of the advances their research will bring,” wrote Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind.
Google’s DeepMind is working on artificial intelligence similar to those portrayed in movies – a computer system that works like a human brain, using information from its environment to make decisions free of human interaction.
Dark Blue Labs specialised in deep learning for understanding natural language, something Google’s search products have been pioneering on a large scale with both typed and spoken natural language queries. Google’s voice search is built into every Android smartphone and tablet, while desktop users can also search using voice through a web browser.
Prof Nando de Freitas, Prof Phil Blunsom, Dr Edward Grefenstette and Dr Karl Moritz Hermann from Dark Blue Labs will focus on research to enable machines, be they computers or robots, to better understand what users say and are asking of them.
Vision Factory specialised in visual recognition systems and deep learning, applying artificial intelligence techniques to enhance the accuracy and speed of object recognition and other vision-based computer systems.
Dr Karen Simonyan, Max Jaderberg and Prof Andrew Zisserman, founders of Vision Factory, will help Google improve its vision systems, which include object recognition in search, its camera-based search apps and undoubtedly the data-processing systems needed for its self-driving cars.
‘Machine Learning is a technology whose time has come’
De Freitas, Blunsom and Zisserman will remain at Oxford University as part-time lecturers, while Google is making a “substantial” donation to the computer science and engineering departments, establishing a new research partnership.
“Machine Learning is a technology whose time has come,” said Prof Mike Wooldridge, head of the department of computer science at Oxford University. “We have invested heavily in this area and we are truly excited at the prospect of what we can achieve together with Google.”
“It is a really exciting time for Artificial Intelligence research these days, and progress is being made on many fronts including image recognition and natural language understanding,” said Hassabis.
Google’s artificial intelligence efforts hit the headlines at the beginning of the year when the company acquired DeepMind technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence firm specialising in machine learning, advanced algorithms and systems neuroscience for £400m – Google’s largest European purchase and now employing around 100 researchers in London.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 23rd October 2014 14.56 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010