Over the weekend it was reported by tech news website Re/Code that Google has agreed to buy DeepMind, a company that specialises in creating advanced artificial intelligence. This comes shortly after Google’s other recent purchase, that of robotics company Boston Dynamics in December 2013, and adds to the company’s growing number of companies in its fold that specialise in robotics and its related fields.
With Google clearly chasing some sort of robotic future and movies like James Cameron’s Terminator series in the collective consciousness of movie-loving nerds everywhere, there is some concern over the huge company’s long-term robotic ambitions. To that end, DeepMind has apparently insisted Google create an Ethics Board that will ensure the technology isn’t abused.
DeepMind is located in London, and was started by gaming, programming and neuroscience genius Demis Hassabis, AI researcher and computer scientist Shane Legg and relative unknown, Mustafa Suleyman with backing from several prominent tech billionaires. According to its web page, “DeepMind is a cutting edge artificial intelligence company. We combine the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms“.
The initial report pegged the price paid for DeepMind at $400 million, but that was later amended to $500 million. Facebook was reportedly also in negotiations with the company, but Google emerged the ultimate victor.
In an apparent recruitment drive for its robotic ambitions, Google acquired one of the foremost minds in the field of artificial intelligence, Ray Kurzweil, in December 2012. Kurzweil is a well-known author, futurist, inventor and engineer, and he now occupies the position of Director of Engineering at Google.
If you’re wondering why the sudden interest in robotics, it’s because of one man: Andy Rubin. Rubin is the man behind the Android operating system, and he stepped away from his creation in 2013 to focus on his other lifelong love, that of robotics. The Verge ran a lengthy feature on the man, his move and its implications for Google, and it’s definitely worth a read as it provides some fascinating insights into where Google’s robotic ambitions might be going.