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  • Sam Shead

Google's complex relationship with DeepMind highlighted in new report

The relationship between Google and DeepMind might not be as rosy as they'd like you to believe, according to an in-depth report from The Information, which cites several sources across both companies.

Google fought off Facebook to acquire DeepMind — a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) lab working on solving artificial general intelligence — in 2014 for a reported $600 million but not everyone at Google saw it as a smart move.

According to the report, authored by editor-in-chief Jessica Lessin and reporter Kevin McLaughlin, a number of AI researchers at divisions like Google Brain were surprised when they learned of the DeepMind deal and tensions have risen since the deal went through. DeepMind was separated from Google in 2015 as part of the Alphabet restructure and today the company operates with a relatively high degree of autonomy.

The lack of revenue generated by DeepMind is reportedly one of the main issues for some Google staff. Others are annoyed by the fact that DeepMind has a "special status" within the Alphabet group that allows it to work on projects that may not deliver results for decades.

The report states that DeepMind also failed to successfully develop improved video recommendation software for YouTube. Teams from DeepMind and YouTube reportedly struggled to work across time zones, while there were also disagreements about data sharing.

There are several other interesting nuggets in the report that are worth pulling out.

  1. DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis reportedly turned down an offer from Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page to lead Google's robotics efforts.

  2. Before the acquisition, Hassabis reportedly approached another AI company called Vicarious about a potential merger.

  3. Google AI leaders Jeff Dean and Geoff Hinton flew to London for a day on Page's private jet to do due diligence on DeepMind before the acquisition.

  4. DeepMind's leaders objected when Google Cloud boss Diane Greene tried to use DeepMind's brand on Google products. One idea was reportedly to use messaging like "Powered by DeepMind".

DeepMind did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

You can follow Sam Shead on Twitter: @sam_l_shead.

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