Why Google had to buy DeepMind, NEST, Boston Dynamics…

Why Google had to buy DeepMind, NEST, Boston Dynamics…

On 26th January 2014, Google bought DeepMind technologies for around $400 million. Hardly 10 days before that it announced acquisition of NEST Labs for a whopping $3.2 billion, and nearly a month back in December 2013, Google bought Boston dynamics. There is a long list of acquisitions by Google and for past two years or so there is a pattern emerging in the type of companies that the search engine giant is buying.

Google is largely targeting firms that are researching in the fields of artificial intelligence, human behavior and smart machines; and there is a very good reason why Google is targeting these firms.

The Pattern

DeepMind Technologies is a focused research firm that delves exclusively on artificial intelligence topics. Boston Dynamics became famous by creating smart robots that mimic animal running movements. I was at first boggled by why NEST was important because I never heard about it before, but on cursory research I found out that NEST specializes in creating smart thermostats. These thermostats study the temperature settings of the house owners and try to automatically maintain optimum temperature of the house without any effort by house owner. Notice a pattern here? Smart is the keyword to look for.

Nest
Now if you are thinking that I am basing my assumption on these three companies only, then I would like to assure you that I am not. IN addition to these companies Google also bought Autofuss, Bot & Dolly, Holomni, Meka Robotics, Redwood Robotics, Industrial Perception, Schaft.inc, Flutter, Wavii, Waze, Talaria Technologies, DNNresearch Inc., Channel Intelligence and many more, all in 2013 itself. Out of these the first 7 were bought in the first week of December 2013 itself, right one after another. And all these companies have some relation to smart computing, neural research and artificial intelligence.

Why AI? Are they creating Skynet?

Since the dawn of computer technology, human kind has been involved in the race to create the computer smarter, more human like. Search engines are the epitome of this technology, and Google who has interests in providing smart searches and smart advertisements, has been investing heavily in AI technologies.

Nearly all its products, ranging from banner advertisement service Adsense, to PPC service Adwords, to even Google Search, now analyze the user behavior to display the most optimum sets of results and more importantly most relevant ads. So if Google has to increase its revenue through Pay-per-Click products, it has to increase the conversion rate of its PPC products and that is only possible if Google display the most relevant ads to its users. Smart algorithms are the only way to do this, thus Google’s obsession with AI.

Competition is catching up

Why sudden interests in the field? Why so fast buyouts? Google is still the king. It is still the best source of PPC ads and its search engine is still unrivalled. Well the main reason behind such a rush is the fact that Google’s competitors, Bing, yahoo, and Facebook (yes even Facebook is a competitor), are finally catching up.

Google Vs Bing

Two months back Bing updated its knowledge repository, Satori, and it now shows more relevant search results. Though Google is still the most favored search engine, it still needs to work hard if it need to keep is supremacy.

But other rumors are also ripe

Smarter search and ads are not the only angle. Google glass and Google Now, the next ambitious projects of Google also rely heavily on user analysis and deduction algorithms. In addition processing of big data is also a huge area of interest of Google. So all this AI related tech can also help Google in its other endeavors as well.

In addition there is whole Google lab that is doing covert researches. There is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to it. So even though we have a highly intelligent guess about why Google is buying all these companies, there is possibility that Google may end up surprising us. And truth be told, I am hoping for a surprise.

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Ambuj Tayal

Ambuj Tayal

Director - Consulting Services
In the past, Ambuj has held consulting roles with various global technology leaders, such as Infosys, Fiserv and Xchanging in India. He holds a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.
Ambuj Tayal

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Ambuj TayalWhy Google had to buy DeepMind, NEST, Boston Dynamics…