Google’s DeepMind team, founded in 2011 and acquired by Google earlier this year, recently hired members of two artificial intelligence companies that were birthed by Oxford University. The two companies are named Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory. According to the Dark Blue Labs website, the company focuses on “learning deep structured and unstructured representations of data to make intelligent products, including natural language understanding, a reality,” while Vision Factory builds object and text recognition technology.
The Guardian said that some members of the teams will remain at Oxford University as “guest lecturers,” and that part of the deal involved a sizeable donation on Google’s behalf to Oxford’s engineering and comp-sci programs to provide new lectures, workshops and internship programs.
“Google DeepMind has hired all seven founders of these startups with the three professors holding joint appointments at Oxford University where they will continue to spend part of their time,” Google DeepMind co-founder and Vice President of Engineering said. “These exciting partnerships underline how committed Google DeepMind is to supporting the development of UK academia and the growth of strong scientific research labs.”
It’s possible that the natural language technology researched by Dark Blue Labs will make its way into existing Google products, like Google Search, which are already capable of understanding voice commands. Meanwhile, The Guardian said the Vision Factory team will “help Google improve its vision systems.” Google Goggles, a free app, already allows users to identify objects using the camera on a smartphone, but the team’s expertise could also be applied to Google Glass and, as The Guardian notes, to Google’s self-driving cars.