The University of Toronto computer science department confirmed today that Google has acquired one of their startups lead by professor Geoffrey Hinton. DNNresearch Inc. was incorporated in 2012 and includes two of Hinton’s graduate students, Alex Krizhevsky and Ilya Sutskever.
The startup focuses on deep neural networks (or “deep learning”) and will assist Google in the realm of contextual recognition of voice and images. For the search giant this kind of research is highly sought after as more and more people look up concepts on their mobile devices.
“Geoffrey Hinton’s research is a magnificent example of disruptive innovation with roots in basic research,” said U of T’s president, professor David Naylor. “The discoveries of brilliant researchers, guided freely by their expertise, curiosity, and intuition, lead eventually to practical applications no one could have imagined, much less requisitioned.”
The computer science department confirmed that Hinton will split time between U of T, Google’s Toronto office and its Mountain View, California headquarters. Meanwhile Krizhevsky and Sutskever will both be moving to Google.
“I am extremely excited about this fantastic opportunity to keep my research here in Toronto and, at the same time, help Google apply new developments in deep learning to make systems that help people,” said Hinton.
Under Hinton’s guidance, Krizhevsky and Sutskever developed the system that “dramatically improved” object recognition for computers. Google had previously awarded this same group of researchers a $600,000 gift to support the research of neural nets.
Voice and image-based search increasingly represents Google’s search traffic and the innovative research should greatly assist typical search platforms that struggle to separate similar sounding concepts with different meanings.
Department chair Sven Dickenson mentioned that this is a great opportunity for both Hinton and the entire department. “In recent years, we have been expanding our industrial relations, and this acquisition represents a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our existing ties with Google, one of the world’s most innovative IT companies,” he said.