Did Google just buy itself a brain?
Google announced Sunday that the company would be acquiring secretive London-based artificial intelligence developer DeepMind for at least $400 million.
Re/code, which confirmed the deal after an inquiry to Google, reports Google C.E.O. Larry Page oversaw the deal personally to purchase the company founded by acclaimed neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, who as a child became known as a games and chess prodigy.
According to LinkedIn and the company website, DeepMind is about three years old and focuses on building learning algorithms for simulators, e-commerce and games — all of which could serve as multiple research approaches to A.I. development.
Tech community sources specializing in A.I. cited by Re/code described DeepMind as a major player in A.I. development, having already acquired more than $50 million in funding with at least 50 employees, which the company competed to recruit against tech giants like Facebook and Google.
DeepMind is the latest in a series of A.I. expert acquisitions by Google, including distinguished research and University of Toronto professor Geoffrey E. Hinton. The company announced a partnership with NASA and multiple universities last year to build the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab.
Though Google declined to comment on the specifics of the purchase, it makes clear sense based on Google’s recent research and development projects, which include advanced robotics and self-driving cars.
According to a Techcrunch report, Carnegie Mellon professor Larry Wasserman wrote in 2012 that the “startup is trying to build a system that thinks. This was the original dream of AI. As Shane [Legg] explained to me, there has been huge progress in both neuroscience and ML and their goal is to bring these things together. I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company.”