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Google nabs neural networks startup to aid in speech recognition tech and more

Google has acquired Toronto-based startup DNNresearch for its work on neural networks which could lead to improvements in accessibility for Chrome and Android.
March 15, 2013
As part of Google’s ongoing effort to consolidate its resources and hone in on the few core products that it intends to keep going into the future, it has acquired Toronto-based startup DNNresearch for an undisclosed sum. DNNresearch is a startup that specializes in neural networks and recently developed a solution for highly improved object recognition.

DNNresearch is the result of work done in collaboration by University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton and a couple of graduate students, Alex Krizhevsky and Ilya Sutskever. Since Google has bought their company, the two grad students will now transition to the search giant itself. And as for professor Hinton, it has been said that he will start working with Google as well, while still keeping his post at the University of Toronto.

Last month, Google announced that it introduced a number of accessibility improvements to both Chrome and Android. The next time they announce more accessibility updates for all could be after they start harvesting the fruits of DNNresearch’s labor.

U of T neural networks start-up acquired by Google

TORONTO, ON – Google has picked up a ground-breaking start-up out of the Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto.

University Professor Geoffrey Hinton and two of his graduate students, Alex Krizhevsky and Ilya Sutskever, incorporated DNNresearch Inc. in 2012, and the company has been acquired by Google for its research on deep neural networks.

Hinton is world-renowned for his work with neural nets, and this research has profound implications for areas such as speech recognition, computer vision and language understanding.

“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.

“I extend my congratulations to Professor Hinton for this latest achievement.”

Recently, Krizhevsky and Sutskever, who will both be moving to Google, developed a system that dramatically improved the state of the art in object recognition.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Geoff, and a great opportunity for the department,” said Computer Science Chair Sven Dickinson. “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.”

The Google deal will support Prof. Hinton’s graduate students housed in the department’s machine learning group, while protecting their research autonomy under academic freedom. It will also allow Prof. Hinton himself to divide his time between his university research and his work at 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 Professor Hinton.

Professor Hinton will spend time at Google’s Toronto office and several months of the year at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

This announcement comes on the heels of a $600,000 gift Google awarded Professor Hinton’s research group to support further work in the area of neural nets.