Facebook Expands Artificial Intelligence Research with New Lab
Although it does not have quite the same name recognition as IBM’s Watson, Facebook has quietly been committing more and more resources to its artificial intelligence (AI) research division. On Tuesday, the company announced plans to further expand its research team with a new office in Paris dedicated to FAIR, or Facebook AI Research.
Facebook has been developing its AI department for a little over a year. The goal is to develop AI systems that are capable of sorting through different types of information, including text, images, video and more, according to the company. The social media giant plans to embed the AI technology into its various apps and services to make it easier for users to sort through all the information on their news feeds and messages.
Bon Jour, AI
The staff of the new office will report to Yann LeCun (pictured above), a noted AI researcher Facebook brought onboard from New York University several years ago. The Paris office will be staffed by about a dozen computer science researchers, while LeCun will stay in New York where he will oversee a team of more than 40 scientists in Paris, New York and Menlo Park, Calif.
The Paris team will work on ambitious long-term research projects in image recognition, natural language processing, speech recognition, and the kinds of physical and logical infrastructure required to run such AI systems, according to LeCun. “It’s our hope that this research will ultimately help us make services like news feed, photos and search even better and enable an entirely new set of ways to connect and share,” the company said in a statement announcing the news.
Facebook said it chose Paris as the location for a new AI research lab in part due to the number of researchers located there. The company has signed a collaborative agreement with INRIA, a research institute in Paris that will provide joint study opportunities for research professionals, PhD students, and postdoctoral researchers.
In addition to the new office, Facebook announced that it had hired several new researchers to build on its existing research team. Among the new hires is Leon Bottou, who had previously worked with LeCun to develop check reading technology for AT&T.
Meanwhile, Laurens van der Maaten will join Facebook from an academic position at Delft University of Technology. According to the company, van der Maaten will focus on machine learning for visualization and deep learning, time series classification, regularization, and cost-sensitive learning.
The social network is hardly alone in its pursuit of AI research. Microsoft, IBM and Google have all expressed their commitment to developing AI capabilities. To some extent, Facebook is the new kid on the AI block, having only opened its research division in December 2013. “Our work in AI research is still relatively early,” the company said. “But we’ve built a terrific team and have already made some encouraging progress.”