Why Did Google Purchase Artificial Intelligence-Firm DeepMind?

Google’s newest acquisition makes perfect sense seen through the lens of a robotic future.

Why Did Google Purchase Artificial Intelligence-Firm DeepMind?
[Image: Wikipedia]

Not content with a military-grade robotics firm and a potentially revolutionary new thermostat, Google’s Cher Horowitz-like spending spree continues in the form of a tiny yet cutting-edge artificial intelligence firm called DeepMind Technologies.


As first confirmed by Recode, Google paid an unconfirmed sum for the London-based startup. The Information reports the acquisition may be worth upward of $500 million, and Facebook was also said to be in the running.

So what is DeepMind, exactly? It’s a research lab that focuses on developing “the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.” These are then applied to games, simulations, and e-commerce. It’s the brainchild of neuroscientist and programmer Demis Hassabis–whose impressive resume includes a few years as a teenage chess prodigy–and Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman. Recode notes that Larry Page led the deal himself, and that it was largely a talent acquisition.

A DeepMind spokesperson confirmed the Google deal to FastCompany, but declined to offer further specifics.

In the interim, it’s unclear how exactly DeepMind will fit into Google’s plans, although the search giant does currently have a research arm devoted to machine learning.

Some have speculated that Google’s recent public-facing interest in robotics–particularly some of the bi- and -quadrupedal bots engineered by Boston Dynamics–signals a foray into automating online shopping and package delivery.

Imagine, for example, one of Google’s driverless vehicles pulling up to your office. Then, a delivery bot like PetMan walks up to the front desk to deliver your package, confirm your identity, and collect a signature. Machine learning would play a role in nearly every step along the way. It’s a bit like Skynet, from Terminator, only Google is more interested in toppling Amazon than annihilating the human race. At least that’s the hope.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.