Google buys UK artificial intelligence tech firm

Google: DeepMind acquisition. Picture: PA
Google: DeepMind acquisition. Picture: PA
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A British technology company has been bought by Google as the search giant looks to self-driving cars and robots for new sources of business.

Co-founded by 37-year-old neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind Technologies reportedly fetched more than 400 million dollars (£242 million) to make it Google’s largest ever European acquisition.

DeepMind’s technology helps computers think like humans and has so far been used in simulations, e-commerce and games, according to its website.

Mr Hassabis, a former teenage chess prodigy who founded the company with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyma, is also known for a previous career in video game design and for being behind the celebrated Theme Park simulation title from the mid-1990s.

The London-based company’s website claims to have the backing of “some of the most iconic technology entrepreneurs and investors of the past decade” and is reported to employ around 75 people.

Google has not detailed any plans for the group, but technology publication The Information said the deal has prompted it to set up an ethics board to ensure the technology is not abused. It added that Facebook had also been interested in buying DeepMind last year.

The move is the latest in a string of technology acquisitions for Google as it seeks to diversify revenues. It bought several robotics companies last year, including US-based Boston Dynamics, which develops fast robots resembling animals and has strong links to the military.

It also comes alongside the rising profile of UK-based technology start-ups, with London seeing an influx of budding entrepreneurs launching businesses near its so-called Silicon Roundabout. The area is also an increasingly popular choice for Silicon Valley companies looking for a springboard to launch into Europe.

Google confirmed it had bought DeepMind but declined to comment further.