Google gets smarter, acquires AI firm DeepMind for $400M


Google is said to be acquiring a somewhat secretive startup that goes by the name of DeepMind for a reported $400 million. Re/code reports that DeepMind is a London-based Artificial Intelligence company that specializes in games and e-commerce algorithms. While it might seem a puzzling acquisition for Google at first glance, closer analysis reveals that it could prove to be a very smart one.

For a three-year old startup, $400 million seems a fairly steep price, especially when you consider that DeepMind hasn’t exactly broken many headlines. However, the company does boast an impressive roster that is packed with talent, including Jaan Tallin, a former Skype and Kazaa developer, and Demis Hassabis, a neuroscientist. The company’s website states that it specializes in AI for “simulations, e-commerce and games,” and this could make it a good fit for some of Google’s – how should we put it? – stranger projects.

Regular readers might remember that Google has been making some interesting acquisitions and hires in recent months, indicating a new direction for the company. Basically, Google is extremely interested in robotics, and has snatched up a number of companies and startups in the industry over the last year. In addition to this, just last month the company hired former Microsoft engineer Blaise Agüera y Arcas, who’s said to have been put to work on the firm’s machine learning projects.

It seems that this acquisition was more about DeepMind’s talent, although there are some possible applications for the startup’s technology. For one thing, Google could easily put its work on e-commerce to use, while its AI expertise could benefit something like Google Now. The search giant has been pushing Google Now extremely hard, in an effort to make it the world’s best personal assistant that’s able to predict what you need or want even before you ask it. It’s battling against Apple’s Siri, which also wants to be your best friend, but a boost of AI and machine learning could well give Google Now the edge.

Of course, Google could have other plans afoot. There’s been previous speculation that Google might be working on something similar to Amazon’s delivery drones, while Andy Rubin (head of Google’s robotics division) has made it clear before that he’s interested in industries that have yet to see the benefit of robotics tech, such as electronics manufacturing.

Then again, Google could have even more fantastic ideas for DeepMind’s technology. Maybe it just wants to build an army of terminators. After all, the company wants nothing less than total world domination. Right?