Google teams with Oxford on artificial intelligence

AI could be a boost to Google search, robotics, Maps and Google+

Artificial Intelligence
gengiskanhg (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Google, the search company that's investing heavily in robotics, is teaming with Oxford University researchers to work on artificial intelligence.

In January, Google bought the London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMind. Now the Google DeepMind group will work with two of Oxford's artificial intelligence (AI) research teams.

The teams will work on image recognition and natural language understanding, according to Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind and vice president of engineering at Google, in a blog post.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, called the collaboration a smart move since AI technology could boost Google Maps, search and Google+, the company's social networking service.

"AI can be used to make applications more predictive, as well as make robots smarter," he said. "Well, it's most directly about robotics but the intelligence can be ported to other applications. It could help anticipate user needs. AI could help apps figure out what users might do based on their past actions."

Member of the university's two research teams, have each started their own companies. Dark Blue Labs involves research on how to enable machines to better understand what users are saying to them. Vision Factory is working on how to use deep learning to build visual recognition systems.

Google has hired the seven professors behind these two companies, though the researchers will continue to work part-time at Oxford.

The company also will be making what it calls a "substantial contribution" to establish a research partnership with the university's computer science and engineering departments. A specific donation was not announced.

Google'a interest in robotics is relatively new.

The company bought up eight robotics companies last year, including Boston Dynamics, developer of the 6-foot-tall, humanoid robot Atlas.

In January, Google bought Nest Technologies, a company that makes a smart-home thermostat that can be programmed from users' mobile phones. Google spent $3.2 billion in cash for that acquisition.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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