Google's AI-first strategy: Now it fires up new machine learning research group

In line with Google CEO Sundar Pichai's AI-centric strategy, the company is creating a new research group dedicated to machine learning, with its director of engineering for search in charge.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Machine-learning software engineers and researchers will get to develop Google's products as well as conduct research.

Image: Google

Google has created a new research group in Europe that will be dedicated to solving machine-learning challenges.

The new machine-learning group, called Google Research, Europe, is based in Google's Zurich office.

It will offer European software engineers and researchers who specialize in machine learning a chance to develop Google's products as well as conduct research, Google announced today in a blogpost.

In April, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he foresees a time when devices will completely vanish, to be replaced by omnipresent artificial intelligence and that the company's investments in AI are preparing it for such a world.

In line with Pichai's vision, the new research group will focus on machine intelligence, natural-language processing and understanding, and machine perception.

"In pursuit of these areas, the team will actively research ways in which to improve ML infrastructure, broadly facilitating research for the community, and enabling it to be put to practical use," wrote Emmanuel Mogenet, head of Google Research, Europe.

"Furthermore, researchers in the Zurich office will be uniquely able to work closely with team linguists, advancing natural-language understanding in collaboration with Google Research groups across the world, all while enjoying 'Mountain Views' of a different kind," he added.

Mogenet is the current head Google's Zurich site and director of engineering for search.

According to Mogenet, Zurich is Google's largest engineering office outside the US, and is responsible for the engine that powers Knowledge Graph and the conversation engine that powers the assistant in its new Allo app.

The new group also opens doors for Google to work with and tap talent from computer science researchers from the region's universities. However, Google hasn't said how many researchers it would employ.

"Europe is home to some of the world's premier technical universities, making it an ideal place to build a top-notch research team. We look forward to collaborating with all the excellent computer-science research that is coming from the region, and hope to contribute towards the wider academic community through our publications and academic support," Mogenet said.

The new research group comes as Google continues to face scrutiny by the European Commission over search and Android.

At a conference in Stockholm last week, Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent Alphabet, said the company expected to be sued by Europe because that was a pattern established with other US companies.

He also criticized Europe's politicians for not doing enough to create more entrepreneurs, suggesting that Europe could do that through universities, much in the way that Israel is supporting entrepreneurs through the military or the way China is investing directly in entrepreneurs.

However, he also noted that Europe's universities were poorly funded compared with their US counterparts.

"That lack of capital in universities is a direct cause of the lack of startups [in Europe]," Schmidt said.

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