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Facebook Enters Artificial Intelligence Research Arena

Facebook Enters Artificial Intelligence Research Arena

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has hired New York University professor Yann LeCun to head up its research in artificial intelligence, AllThingsD reported Monday.

The move marks both a formal launch and expansion to AI research efforts by Facebook that have been underway for some time.

Professor LeCun in posting news about his new position said the goal of the research would be to bring about major advances in AI through a partnership with New York University, where LeCun will continue to maintain part time status.

Facebook’s combination launch/expansion follows a similar move by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which hired AI research scientist Ray Kurzweil last year. Kurzweil will lead Google’s efforts in both artificial intelligence and deep learning.

IBM (NYSE: IBM), of course, has a long history of involvement in AI research, going back to the 1950s. More recently the company made news with its super computer, Watson, which successfully competed on the television show Jeopardy and is now well on the way to being available to the public as a resource for app providers.

All this led one source to tell AllThingsD, “I expect an arms race between Google Brain, Facebook AI Group and other tech companies that will desperately try to keep up.”

Related: Facebook's Future Lies in Mobile Advertising

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was expected to comment on the new venture at the NIPS Deep Learning Conference at Lake Tahoe this week, said in October, "The goal here is to use new approaches in AI to help make sense of all the content that people share so we can generate new insights about the world to answer people’s questions."

In more practical terms, TechCrunch said LeCun’s work could help Facebook interpret user data to understand better what people want to see in their news feeds, which photos they want displayed, and more.

At the heart of all this AI research is something called “deep learning.” Deep learning is an algorithm that allows computers to interpret the meaning as well as the context of both symbols and images.

Properly applied, deep learning would allow Facebook to recognize topics in which you are interested, then gather up posts and images on those topics and present them to you as part of your news feed.

While artificial intelligence research has been around for a long time, most of the work has been done in universities. The advent of companies such as Facebook and Google has made the application of AI viable for commercial purposes.

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.


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