Google Acquires Stake in German AI Research Organization

By Jaikumar Vijayan  |  Posted 2015-10-08 Print this article Print

The investment in the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, or DFKI, formalizes a long-standing relationship between the two entities.

Google has acquired a stake in a German research organization that specializes in artificial intelligence technologies, presumably with a view to enhancing its own capabilities in that space.

The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) this week announced that Google's operating unit in Germany had purchased a share of the organization for an undisclosed amount. Google joins 16 other organizations—including Microsoft, Airbus, Intel, BMW and John Deere—that have a stake in DFKI.

DFKI is the only research company in Germany in which Google has made a capital investment and has a seat on the board, the German research group said in a statement.

DFKI's Website describes it as public-private partnership established in 1988 with a mission to advance research in the artificial intelligence arena. It is currently engaged in 180 research projects covering a wide array of next-generation technologies, including wearable computing, virtual worlds, 3D Internet, smart city technologies, augmented vision and driver assistance systems. DFKI currently employs some 450 researchers and more than 370 graduate students from over 60 countries.

The DFKI statement announcing Google's investment describes the relationship between the two entities as involving diverse interests. Many of the research projects that DFKI is current engaged in, like smart cities, augmented vision and smart cars, intersect with projects that Google is working on as well. So the company's interest in purchasing a stake is not particularly surprising.

Google's investment in DFKI formalizes a relationship between the two organizations that goes back several years. Even prior to the investment, Google and DFKI had partnered together on multiple research projects. According to the German research organization, Google has regularly awarded research and development projects to DFKI dating back to 2005. More than 30 staff members, students and researchers from DFKI have worked on projects at Google's offices in Zurich, Switzerland; Munich, Germany; and Mountain View, Calif., over the years.

Google's artificial intelligence and machine learning group supports much of the company's efforts in areas such as language and speech recognition, translation and visual processing.

The company also has a Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab hosted at NASA's Ames Research Center. The lab is focused on researching the use of quantum computing to advance machine learning using quantum computers from Canadian firm D-Wave Systems and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA).

Google's stakes in the AI space go well beyond such efforts. In 2014, the company acquired DeepMind, a London-based startup focused on artificial intelligence, for some $400 million in cash. The acquisition gave Google access to software in technology areas that are close its heart, like machine learning and simulation. Since the acquisition, Google has released few details publicly on how it is leveraging its investment in the AI firm.


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