Google buys British start-up DeepMind Technologies

Google has bought London’s DeepMind Technologies, a firm specialising in artificial intelligence, for around $500m. It is the technology giant’s biggest European purchase to date.

DeepMind’s technology has so far centred on e-commerce, simulations and games. The company was established by Demis Hassibis, a child chess prodigy who went into computer-game design before gaining a PhD in neuroscience.

What the commentators said

Google has been concentrating on buying up robotics companies recently, said Sean Hollister on Theverge.com, so “you’d be forgiven for thinking that Google might want to give those robots some brains”. But it seems that the DeepMind experts will be primarily involved in internet search work.

Google’s founders ultimately want to make Google Search “AI-complete”, said Sophie Curtis in The Daily Telegraph – that is, just as intelligent as a human. Google is already working on virtual personal assistants, based on its knowledge of users’ habits.

But it will be a long time before software can mimic the complexity of the human brain, with its 100 billion neurons and 1,000 times as many synapses, all working in parallel, said Emily Cadman on Ft.com. One expert reckons we’ll be doing well to develop a system with the intelligence of a rat within a decade. Nor is it clear that DeepMind can deliver the goods, as Paul Murphy pointed out on Ftalphaville.ft.com.

One of Hassibis’s previous ventures, a games company established during the “last big tech frenzy… quickly disappeared”. And DeepMind doesn’t even have a product to its name yet. This is starting to look like a new technology bubble.

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