Google’s Deepmind which lies at the intersection of unique hybrid of startup culture and academia has always focussed on collaborating with many of the best researchers from around the world since its inception. They recently announced their next phase: the opening of DeepMind’s first ever international AI research office in Edmonton, Canada, in close collaboration with the University of Alberta (UAlberta).
According to statement by Deepmind, “It was a big decision for us to open our first non-UK research lab, and the fact we’re doing so in Edmonton is a sign of the deep admiration and respect we have for the Canadian research community. In fact, we’ve had particularly strong links with the UAlberta for many years: nearly a dozen of its outstanding graduates have joined us at DeepMind, and we’ve sponsored the machine learning lab to provide additional funding for PhDs over the past few years.”
It’s a natural fit for DeepMind, which has close links with the AI research community in Edmonton’s University of Alberta. The company says nearly a dozen Alberta grads have joined its ranks, and the firm has sponsored the university’s machine learning lab for a number of years. Richard Sutton, professor of computing science at Alberta, was also DeepMind’s first outside advisor, and will head up the company’s new base along with colleagues Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski. Seven more researchers will join them to fill out the initial DeepMind Alberta team.
Sutton is a particularly notable figure in the AI community, known for his pioneering work in the field of reinforcement learning. This is a technique that allows computer agents to teach themselves through trial-and-error, with researchers programming virtual rewards when they do the right thing. It sounds like a simple tool, but it has sophisticated results. DeepMind has used a variation of this method — known as deep reinforcement learning — in some of its most notable success, including creating an AI that can learn to play video games.
In a press statement, Sutton described the University of Alberta as “the world’s academic leader in reinforcement learning,” making it an well-chosen partnership. He added that the new lab will “turbo-charge the research ecosystem” and “drive a whole host of new scientific breakthroughs right here in Canada, propelling the field of AI forwards into exciting new territory.”