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Deepmind

Google buys AI company Deepmind in ongoing Internet of Things landgrab

Still think Google’s all about search? Think again. The Palo Alto-based tech giant is making an increasing number of forays into the Internet of Things, with its latest purchase reportedly being artificial intelligence company DeepMind.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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According to a report from Re/code, Google doled out US$400-million for the London-based company, which specialises in learning algorithms for simulations, ecommerce and games.

The buyout is widely understood to be an aqui-hire on Google’s part as it looks to get the most out of DeepMind’s 50 or so AI whizz kids. Indeed, company co-founder Demis Hassabis is noteworthy all on his own. A child prodigy at chess, he went on to co-design and lead program the classic game Theme Park at the age of 17.

The company’s AI expertise in ecommerce will be of serious interest to Google, given that it’s never done spectacularly well in the area. DeepMind’s knowledge could, for instance, be ploughed into its paid Hangout service Helpouts.

Given the internet giant’s other recent big purchases — robotics company Boston Dynamics and smart device maker Nest Labs — it seems fairly likely that the DeepMind team will be put to work trying to beef up Google’s efforts around the Internet of Things.

Add DeepMind’s AI capabilities to Boston Dynamic’s efforts in robotics for instance and you could suddenly see the field taking some serious strides forwards. Nest’s smart thermostats and smoke machines could meanwhile go beyond learning your behaviours to predicting and adjusting for them.

One exciting (or scary, depending how you feel about Google right now) possibility is some of DeepMind’s team being allowed to work on Google X projects, such as the smart contact lens currently in development.