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Google Has a New Machine Learning Research Group

June 16, 2016, 11:15 AM UTC
Photograph by Getty Images

Google has announced a research group in Switzerland that will be dedicated to the field of machine learning.

As its name suggests, machine learning involves systems that can learn things and come up with predictions from sets of data, without being specifically programmed to do so. It’s essential to what we currently think of as “artificial intelligence.”

Google uses machine learning to power its translation engine, its image-recognition systems, and its Inbox “smart reply” feature. Machine learning improves spam recognition in Gmail and helps Google’s driverless cars figure out what’s going on around them.

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Google (GOOG) already has its largest engineering office outside the U.S. in Zurich. Emmanuel Mogenet, the head of Google Research in Europe, said in a Thursday blog post that the location was ideal due to Europe being “home to some of the world’s premier technical universities.”

“We look forward to collaborating with all the excellent computer science research that is coming from the region, and hope to contribute towards the wider academic community through our publications and academic support,” he wrote.

The new research group will focus on machine intelligence (covering everything from speech recognition to ranking), natural language processing and understanding (not only useful for things like translation, but also search), and machine perception (tasks like searching for things in photos and recognizing handwriting).

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“Researchers in the Zurich office will be uniquely able work closely with team linguists, advancing natural language understanding in collaboration with Google Research groups across the world, all while enjoying Mountain Views of a different kind,” Mogenet wrote.