Google buys UK artificial intelligence company, DeepMind, for £242m



Google has bought a London artificial intelligence company for a reported $400 million (£242m), its biggest ever European acquisition.

The US technology giant has reportedly spent the sum on artificial intelligence firm DeepMind, according to technology websiteRe/Code. Google confirmed it has bought the start-up but would not discuss price.

DeepMind was founded in 2012 by former chess prodigy, video games designer and neuroscientist Demis Hassabis. The company’s website describes it as a “cutting edge artificial intelligence company” combining “the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.”

These algorithms allow programmes and systems to learn from experience and DeepMind’s says its initial commercial applications have been in simulations, e-commerce and games.

An ad posted by the company looking for an intern, asked: “Are you worried that the only place for smart people with a passion for software in London is in soul-crushing finance? Are you looking to work in a company that invests in hard research to create cutting edge new machine learning algorithms?”

IBM recently pledged $1 billion to fund Watson (above) – its own ‘cognitive computing’ machine that its hoped will one day understand the nuances of human language.

Founder Hassabis worked on classic PC games including Theme Park andBlack & White, on which he was a lead artificial intelligence programmer. The Mind Sports Olympiad (an international competition for games of mental skill) described Hassabis as “probably the best games player in history“.

Sources speaking to Re/Code said that although DeepMind was not a household name, it was respected in the artificial intelligence community and competed with the likes of Google and Facebook in attracting engineering talent.

It’s not sure exactly how Google will use DeepMind’s machine learning technology, though its thought that the expertise could help power the search giant’s growing interest in robotics.

In December last year Google revealed that it had purchased eight robotic companies in the last six months, all of which will be working together under an unspecified project headed by Andy Rubin, the executive responsible for the global success of the Android operating system.

The companies purchased by Google included Boston Dynamics, a robotics maker that had several major contracts with America’s Department of Defense (DoD).

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