Google has confirmed that it will acquire artificial intelligence (AI) startup DeepMind, a London-based company the tech giant scooped up for an estimated minimum of $500 million.
According to Re/code, which broke the story yesterday and reported the ticket price at $400 million, the purchase "is in large part an artificial intelligence talent acquisition." The company was founded by former child chess prodigy Demis Hassabis, developer Jaan Tallin, and artificial intelligence researcher Shane Legg. Facebook was reportedly also attempting to buy the company.
DeepMind joins an already-long list of robotics and AI companies recently purchased by Google, including Boston Dynamics (which builds award-winning, transformer-like robots), Flutter (which specializes in gesture recognition) and, most recently, Nest (which builds smart household items like thermostats and smoke detectors). Google's DeepMind acquisition also led it to establish, upon the smaller company's insistence, a DeepMind-Google ethics board that will set standards for use of the AI technology. That makes sense for a company whose motto is "don't be evil," but is seen by some as the defining aspect of an otherwise standard acquisition:
What is significant about Deepmind acquisition isn’t the eleventy gagillion, but the formation of an ethics board http://t.co/ywztR2X6QU— Ben Rooney (@benjrooney) January 27, 2014
So far, Google has largely identified their AI project as related to translation and visual processing:
Much of our work on language, speech, translation, and visual processing relies on Machine Learning and AI. In all of those tasks and many others, we gather large volumes of direct or indirect evidence of relationships of interest, and we apply learning algorithms to generalize from that evidence to new cases of interest.