Re/code offers some additional insight into the $400+ million acquisition of artificial intelligence (AI) startup DeepMind that was reported last week. The people at DeepMind will apparently work with the search team at Google but not exclusively:
Or as search is known at Google today, the “Knowledge” group, so-called because it no longer just finds keywords on web pages, but instead connects larger concepts. Knowledge is led by Google SVP Alan Eustance, but DeepMind will work closely with a team led by Jeff Dean, a near 15-year Google veteran, best known for his work on distributed systems.
While there’s some technology and IP, what Google appears to be getting primarily is the team, lead by Demis Hassabis. Hassabis was a neuroscientist before getting into “AI.”
It’s not hard to imagine that machine learning and AI would have broad application across Google, from search and mobile (including Now) to advertising, robots, autonomous cars, security and the connected home. Thus the acquisition is smart and not that expensive, all things considered.
Whether it will bear fruit — or as much fruit as Page and Brin hope — is another matter. Undoubtedly Google will benefit in a number of ways, both anticipated and unanticipated, from the presence of Hassabis and the other DeepMind entrepreneurs. But the fulfillment of the promise of AI is probably still many years away.
Google has bought many companies that have “failed” or not fulfilled expectations. The company takes a lot of changes and places a great many bets — it can afford to. This is another “moonshot” of sorts, but one that makes lots of sense and is consistent with the direction of the market as a whole.