Google consolidates AI research departments into Google DeepMind

Google consolidates AI research departments into Google DeepMind

Photo credit: Agency Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu/Getty Images

As Google tries to keep up with the other tech giants in AI, it is consolidating its AI research departments.

Google today announced Google DeepMind, a new entity comprised of Google Research’s DeepMind team and Google Brain team. In a blog post, DeepMind co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis said that Google DeepMind will work “in close collaboration…across Google’s product areas” to “deliver AI research and products.”

As part of the formation of Google DeepMind, Google says it will create a new Scientific Advisory Board to oversee the research progress and direction of the unit, led by Koray Kavukcuoglu, VP of Research at DeepMind. Eli Collins, VP of Product at Google Research, will join Google DeepMind as VP of Product, while Zoubin Ghahramani, Head of Google Brain, will join Google DeepMind’s research leadership team, reporting to Kavukcuoglu.

Meanwhile, Jeff Dean, one of the co-founders of Google Brain, will assume the senior role of chief scientist for both Google Research and Google DeepMind, reporting to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Google Research will remain an independent department reporting to James Manyika, Google’s SVP of Technology and Society, focusing on “fundamental advances in computer science in areas such as algorithms and theory, privacy and security, quantum computing, health, climate and sustainability, and responsible AI focused. ”

“Through Google DeepMind, we are bringing together our best-in-class AI talents with the computing power, infrastructure and resources to create the next generation of AI breakthroughs and products for Google and Alphabet, in bold and responsible ways. ‘ Hassabis wrote. “The work we will do now as part of this new combined entity will create the next wave of world-changing breakthroughs.”

Google acquired DeepMind, which Hassabis co-founded with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman in 2010, for $500 million in 2014. The lab made numerous headlines in the years that followed, developing AI that could beat human Go pro players and predict the structures complex proteins.

Google Brain was founded a year after DeepMind in 2011 as a part-time research collaboration between Dean, Google researcher Greg Corrado and Stanford University professor Andrew Ng. It has similarly achieved a lot, creating tools like TensorFlow, an AI model building framework, as well as improvements to Google Translate.

Since the acquisition, DeepMind and Google Brain have mostly worked in harmony — at least from the outside in. But there have been occasional squabbles between DeepMind and its parent company, Alphabet (which also owns Google).

For years, senior executives at DeepMind reportedly tried to negotiate with Google for more autonomy and sought an independent legal structure for the sensitive research they conduct. The talks broke down in May 2021.

DeepMind has also struggled to break even with its growing expenses, which include the computing power required to train massive AI models and a large headcount (around 1,000 employees). Alphabet was forced to write off DeepMind’s nearly £1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) of debt in 2019. DeepMind is now profitable, reporting a modest £44m ($60m) profit in 2020, versus a £477m ($650m) loss. in 2019. But its revenue depends almost entirely on licensing its technologies to other Alphabet groups like Waymo.

Recently, DeepMind has taken on new prominence within Alphabet as the company seeks to beat off competitors like Microsoft and OpenAI in the revenue-generating AI race.

The Information reported last month that software engineers from the Google Brain Group are collaborating with DeepMind collaborators to develop software designed to compete with OpenAI, known as Gemini. Google’s recent AI product pushes, like chatbot Bard, have been poorly received, causing Alphabet’s stock to plummet.

Google — threatened by Microsoft’s close collaboration with OpenAI on Bing Chat, an AI-powered chatbot integrated with the former’s Bing search engine — is also reportedly investing outsize resources in Magi, a collection of new search features with AI capabilities. Magi has a dedicated task force of over 160 people that was newly formed this year.

“We’ve been an AI-first company since 2016 because we see AI as the most important way to fulfill our mission,” Pichai wrote in a blog post published this afternoon. “The pace of progress is now faster than ever. To ensure the bold and responsible development of general AI, we are creating Google DeepMind to help us build more powerful systems, safer and more responsible.”