DeepMind, the London startup tipped to be a billion pound firm before being bought by Google for £400 million earlier this year, has revealed plans to form a broad alliance with the University of Oxford after acquiring two companies that have been spun out of computer science projects.
The artificial intelligence firm, now a department within Google, revealed it has purchased Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory, both founded by Oxford professors.
The deals, thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds according to sources cited by the Financial Times, are part of a wider effort by Google to engage with more of the UK’s scientific and academic institutions.
In addition to the acquisitions, DeepMind has established ties with Oxford’s computer science and engineering departments. The ties will see DeepMind employees deliver lectures at the university, Oxford students go on internships at DeepMind and researchers at both groups work together on AI projects.
Google is also thought to be making a “substantial contribution” to the university worth many millions, according to an FT source.
“These are exciting times for artificial intelligence, and this partnership further cements the UK’s position in the vanguard of this increasingly impactful field,” said DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis.
DeepMind is developing AI systems that behave like the human brain. The systems are being designed to take unstructured information from their surroundings and use it to make independent decisions and predictions.
Dark Blue Labs, headed by Nando de Freitas and Phil Blunsom, is aiming to create sophisticated software that can understand natural language, enabling computers to understand the meaning of sentences and how people react to them.
Vision Factory, led by Andrew Zisserman, is creating systems that can visually recognise objects in the real world.
Each of the Oxford academics and the teams working under them will become DeepMind employees through the partnership.
It is thought that DeepMind will gain roughly 10 new eployees, bringing staff numbers to approximately 100.
According to the FT, staff at the company usually have to go through seven interviews and hold one or more PhDs.