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Google buys a British artificial-intelligence startup

This week Google cemented its lead in the field of artificial intelligence by paying around £400m ($660m) for DeepMind Technologies Ltd, a startup in London whose first commercial applications are in simulations, e-commerce and games. One of the founders of DeepMind, Demis Hassabis, previously created video games such as “Evil Genius” and “Theme Park”, in which the events and characters can respond credibly in an enormous variety of potential situations because of an artificial-intelligence algorithm humming in the background.

DeepMind’s 75 employees will join the world’s leading group of machine-learning experts, which Google has been assembling in the past few years. Google’s main source of income, its search engine and the accompanying ad-placement system, is driven by machine learning. The firm’s self-driving cars rely on it, as do the intelligent thermostats made by Nest, a firm it has just taken over, and the robot made by Boston Dynamics and other robotics outfits it has been buying.

The technology is already the backbone of many other internet firms. It is what Facebook and LinkedIn use to find people you know, and also what Amazon and Netflix use to suggest books and films you might like. It also helps intelligence agencies to identify terrorist networks.

Neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, 27, co-founded DeepMind Technologies just two years ago with the aim of trying to help computers think like humans. He will be the newest employee at Google. Google has also recently purchased seven robotics firms, including Meka, which makes humanoid robots, and Industrial Perception, which specializes in machines that can package goods.

DeepMind Technologies instead of being used in the robotics division, it will be more likely used to improve Google's current technologies - including voice and text search.

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