Google’s Purchase of DeepMind Reflects New Focus On AI

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Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has its fingers in almost every sector of information technology, but the tech titan’s recent $400 million acquisition of AI firm DeepMind is another piece of evidence of Google’s commitment to becoming a player in the field of artificial intelligence.

Not surprisingly, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been rather tight-lipped about the acquisition, only releasing a general statement. DeepMind is not the only recent AI-related investment for Google. The search giant has purchased half a dozen other up-and-coming robotics and AI companies over the last year or so, including Boston Dynamics, Schaft, Industrial Perception, Meka and Redwood Robotics.

DeepMind background

DeepMind is a privately-held company founded by Demis Hassabis, a neuroscientist and former chess prodigy, together with partners Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman.

The company describes its mission as developing “powerful general-purpose learning algorithms”.

According to Re/code, DeepMind has been working on “a game with very advanced game AI, a smarter recommendation system for online commerce, and something to do with images” for some time.

Already public projects involving DeepMind include training software to play video games without teaching it the rules and an academic paper explaining how computers could learn to beat expert players of several Atari games.

Probably not “Skynet”

Some media sources have suggested that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s acquisition of DeepMind was just the latest step in the development of an early “Skynet” system, referring to the fictional, self-aware adavanced AI system in the Terminator films.

That seems unlikely, however, given that Re/code reports the DeepMind team is assigned to Google’s search division rather than its robotics team. The head of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s seach division is Jeff Dean, and Dean has been involved in a number of “deep network” projects involving thousands of networked devices.

Google’s more intelligent search

It seems likely that DeepMind’s technology and team talent will be put to work in developing improved, intelligent search engines for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). At some point, however, a too-intelligent search engine become an invasion of privacy and could even be used for unethical purposes. According to the news site The Information, Google agreed to set up an ethics board to make sure that DeepMind’s technology would not be used unethically.

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