TechCrunch – Google will buy London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMind. The deal wasconfirmed to Re/code by Google. Re/code reports that the acquisition price was $400 million, but we’ve heard from a source that it was more. We’ve emailed Google and DeepMind for comment.
DeepMind was founded by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, a former child prodigy in chess, Skype and Kazaa developer Jaan Tallin, and researcher Shane Legg.
This is the latest move by Google to fill out its roster of artificial intelligence experts, and the acquisition was reportedly led by Google CEO Larry Page. In December 2012, Google hired inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil as a director of engineering focused on machine learning and language processing. Kurzweil has said that he wants to build a search engine so advanced that it could act like a “cybernetic friend.”
Google’s hiring of Deepmind will help it compete against other major tech companies as they all try to gain business advantages by focusing on deep learning. For example, Facebook recently hired NYU professor Yann LeCunn to lead its new artificial intelligence lab, IBM’s Watson supercomputer is now working on deep learning, and Yahoo recently acquired photo analysis startup LookFlow to lead its new deep learning group.
DeepMind’s site currently only has a landing page, which says that it is “a cutting edge artificial intelligence company” to build general-purpose learning algorithms for simulations, e-commerce, and games.
In 2012, Carnegie Mellon professor Larry Wasserman wrote 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.”
Deepmind was started about three years ago, according to LinkedIn profiles. Re/code reports that Founders Fund and Horizons Ventures are both major investors in the startup.