Starting To Pay Off Is Google’s $400 Million Bet In DeepMind

The manner in which the acquisition of London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMind might start to generate revenue rather than just research papers for Alphabet Inc’s Google was shown in the launches of new hardware from the company recently.

For a cost of reported $400 million, Alphabet had bought DeepMind in 2014. better than any human on the planet to creating artificial intelligence that mimicked the human brain’s ability to dream and even imagine future actions and ranging from teaching software to play the strategy game Go, the firm has produced a steady stream of machine learning research. But with potential commercial uses seemingly years or even decades away, most of these breakthroughs, however, have seemed academic. DeepMind reported zero revenue in the first year Alphabet owned the company.

But Google the company noted how much more natural its computer-generated voice had become when it showcased its new digital assistant Wednesday in its flagship Pixel phone, laptop computer, and Google Home devices. Thanks to an algorithm DeepMind invented last year and which it took from research to full-scale commercial application inside twelve months, Google was able to produce the more human-sounding speech, at least when the assistant speaks in English and Japanese.

Tests showed that human listeners rated it more natural-sounding than existing technologies by a 50 percent margin when DeepMind first published a 2016 paper on WaveNet, a new way of using software to generate speech. But the method was too computationally intensive. The system was “not something we could deploy in the real world”, even DeepMind’s own researchers said.

While also allowing it produce even higher fidelity sound, over the past year it found a way to make the WaveNet algorithm 1,000 times faster. The result was an almost indistinguishable and human like speech from a computer. The company has bene able to deploy WaveNet into its new assistant by these efficiency improvements – run using data centers equipped with Google’s new computer chips.

For DeepMind’s bottom line, this clarity will be useful.

DeepMind’s contribution to Google’s product launch is well timed even though it continues to remain independent from its parent company. According to filings made public on the U.K. business registry Companies House on Monday, it reported its first-ever revenues – 40 million pounds ($52 million) in 2016 – from products and services it supplied to other Alphabet companies.

How DeepMind is starting to help Google is exemplified by this development. Improvements to Google’s core ad words product that DeepMind says it cannot detail and supplying algorithms that have helped Google boost the energy efficiency of its data centers by 15 percent are some others that DeepMind has been willing to talk about.

DeepMind is still shelling out far more cash than it takes in due because of hiring all the brainpower to produce those algorithms. the company reported an overall loss of 94 million pounds, nearly double the amount it reported the year before and the company reported that “staff and other related costs” equaled 104 million pounds in 2016.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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