AI is so important to Google it’s rebranding its research division

Goodbye Google Research, hello Google AI

 Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Every big tech company is an AI company these days, but none more so than Google. To underline the point ahead of its I/O developers conference, the company has rebranded its Google Research division as Google AI, reflecting the centrality of artificial intelligence to the company’s future.

In a blog post announcing the news, the company said the rebrand was to “better reflect [its] commitment” to integrating AI into various services. It follows an organizational reshuffle last month which saw AI product development split up from Google’s search efforts, and veteran Googler Jeff Dean taking the helm of the new division. A newly-revamped homepage for Google AI also emphasizes more than just the company’s consumer products, highlighting recently-published research in topics like health and astronomy and open-source tools used by the AI community worldwide, like the machine learning framework Tensor Flow. (Important to note also: non-AI research will still be done under in the new “Google AI” division.)

 The homepage for Google AI.

The homepage for Google AI.

This focus on research and community contrasts slightly with Microsoft, which has also been pushing its AI credentials this week at its Build conference. But for Microsoft the message has been more about AI ethics and morality, with the company launching a new $25 million AI for Accessibility fund to develop the tech for people with disabilities. Google does plenty of work in the field of AI ethics too, but it’s interesting to see these two titans of the tech world trying to differentiate their message on the same subject.

Last month in a letter to investors, Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin warned of the threats posed by AI, like job destruction, biased algorithms, and misinformation. He also called AI “the most significant development in computing in my lifetime.” Google’s rebranding of its research division drives that point home.

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