Google’s DeepMind buy deepens firm’s robotics portfolio


Google has reportedly paid at least $400 million for the London-based artificial intelligence firm DeepMind. (Jacques Brinon/AP)
January 27, 2014

Stepping up its efforts on the robotics front, Google confirmed Monday that it has acquired the advanced artificial intelligence firm DeepMind.

The London-based start-up specializes in machine learning, and its Web site states that its technology can already be applied to simulations, e-commerce and games. Although Google confirmed the acquisition, which was first reported in Re/Code, the company declined to comment further.

According to the report, Google is believed to have paid at least $400 million for the deal; another report, by The Information, said that Google paid more than $500 million for the smaller company.

Google has put Andy Rubin, the former head of Android, in charge of all of its “moonshot” robotics efforts. And the tech giant has been investing heavily in the robotics world — leaving many wondering what the firm could be planning. In December, Google purchased its eighth robotics firm in a year, Boston Dynamics, which produces four-legged robots that can run up to 16 miles an hour. Google also bought Bot & Dolly, which produces a robotic camera system that was used in the film “Gravity,” The Washington Post’s Dominic Basulto reported.

All of that activity in robotics has led to some tongue-in-cheek speculation that Google is planning to build its own robotic army to take over the world. Such jokes, however, speak to a certain uneasiness about watching a company that already has rich banks of data take on major artificial intelligence projects. Those concerns, according to reports, have reached the company’s ears.

The Information reported that Google has agreed to establish an ethics board as part of the deal with DeepMind to avoid any potential abuse, citing “two people familiar with the deal.” The report, by Amir Efrati, says that DeepMind pushed for the creation of the ethics board to establish rules about responsible use of its technology.

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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