Reportedly, Google has made its biggest European acquisitions to date with acquisition of DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence company.
Technology news website Re/code, which first reported the deal, said the price was $400 million (£242m), other reports suggest the acquisition price was closer to $500 million.
DeepMind has allegedly competed with Google and other major artificial intelligence companies for talent and Google’s chief executive Larry Page is said to have led the deal himself.
According to Forbes, Facebook had been interested in buying London-based DeepMind Technologies, which employs 75 people, but Google has now stolen a march on its rival.
DeepMind was founded just two years ago by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, a former child prodigy in chess, Shane Legg, and Mustafa Suleyman. Skype and Kazaa developer Jaan Tallin is an investor. Major venture capitalist firms Horizons Ventures and Founders Fund are invested in the company.
The 37-year-old Demis Hassabis, told the Daily Mail: “We’re really excited to be joining Google. This partnership will allow us to turbo-charge our mission to harness the power of machine learning tools to tackle some of society’s toughest problems, and help make our everyday lives more productive and enjoyable.”
The company claims on its website that it combines “the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.” It said its first commercial applications are in simulations, e-commerce and games.
A friend of Mr. Hassabis said: “He has very forward-looking ideas and can spot where industries are heading in the future.”
“DeepMind was generally interested in reinforcement learning, and in deep learning, which is very useful in mining so called ‘big data’, something Google has a lot of and is interested in processing,” said Murray Shanahan a professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College London.
Google, which is working on projects including self-driving cars and robots, has become increasingly focused on artificial intelligence in recent years.
In 2012, it hired Ray Kurzweil, considered one of the leading minds in the field, and in May, launched a Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, hosted by NASA’s Ames Research Center. The Universities Space Research Association was to invite researchers around the world to share time on the quantum computer from D-Wave Systems, to study how quantum computing can advance machine learning.
Google’s robotics and artificial intelligence efforts were put under the leadership of the father of Android, Andy Rubin, in December combining seven quietly acquired technology companies to foster a self-described “moonshot” robotics vision, writes The Guardian.
Google also acquired a string of robotics firms in 2013, culminating in the purchase of Boston Dynamics in December, the most high-profile purchase at the time and a company holding contracts with the US military.
As reports PC World, Google announced this month it was paying $3.2 billion in cash to acquire Nest, a maker of smart smoke alarms and thermostats, in what is seen as a bid to expand into the connected home market. It also acquired in January a security firm called Impermium, to boost its expertise in countering spam and abuse.