To get into the robotics business, it is a good idea to have a team that can build machine intelligence. If already in the search engine business, such a team might also come in very useful. For this reason, it is no real surprise that Google has bought London artificial intelligence (AI) business DeepMind. With a price tag of $400m, AI is clearly something Google values very highly; so far, Google is not commenting on quite what it intends to do with it.
The purchase follows soon after Google’s acquisition of eight different robotics companies and high-profile AI experts, such as Blaise Agüera y Arcas. Google has talked in the past about its aim to make its search system more organic, more capable of understanding natural language and more effectively filtering the results, and has recently begun to make moves in this direction by experimenting with additional information in results. As Facebook also invests in AI technology and seeks to personalize its advertising more precisely, Google is keen not to give ground. Google has also implied that it intends to expand its activities into the growing field of smart houses, purchasing Nest and looking at the possibilities inherent in connecting computers and appliances within the home. This is an area full of intriguing marketing possibilities and the race is on to develop practical revenue strategies for it.
“We combine the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms,” says DeepMind on its website. Although it has never actually sold a product, its presentations have impressed investors sufficiently to raise over $50m in funds for the work it has underway. Google is said to be interested primarily because of the talent on DeepMind's team, with the combination of talents from both companies believed by experts to represent the best chance there is of a major breakthrough in AI taking place within the next few years. Last year Facebook tried in vain to persuade some members of the DeepMind team to defect to it.
"We're really excited to be joining Google. This partnership will allow us to turbo-charge our mission to harness the power of machine learning tools to tackle some of society's toughest problems, and help make our everyday lives more productive and enjoyable," said DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis in a statement. “We've built a world-leading team here in the UK and we're looking forward to accelerating the impact of our technology with Google.”