Facebook expands ‘ambitious’ AI research into Europe

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Facebook already has artificial intelligence (AI) research centers in California and New York, and now it’s off to France to open another one. The move into Europe indicates the company’s determination to immerse itself ever deeper in the the world of AI as it seeks to deal more efficiently with the masses of information landing on its social network every day.

The new Paris-based Facebook AI Research (FAIR) team will work on “ambitious long-term research projects in image recognition, natural language processing, speech recognition, and the kinds of physical and logical infrastructure required to run these AI systems,” the company said in a blog post on Tuesday.

The long-term plan is to improve services such as News Feed, photos, and search, and to enable new ways of connecting and sharing, news which should appeal not only to its global user base of more than a billion people, but to brands and advertisers, too.

The company chose Paris as the location for the new center so it can tap into the talent pool of experienced and upcoming researchers in France and the rest of Europe. In addition, Facebook has inked an agreement with INRIA – a respected Paris-based research institute – aimed at offering joint study opportunities for research professionals, PhD students, and postdoctoral researchers.

AI is attracting increasing interest from many of the tech giants. Google, for example, is making some significant moves in the fast-changing sector, last year teaming up with experts at Oxford University in the UK for AI research in the areas of natural language understanding and image recognition. It also acquired London-based AI startup DeepMind at the start of last year, a move that is already beginning to bear fruit (watch out, gamers!).

As for Facebook, the company said in its post that it’s still early days for its own AI research, adding, “We’ve built a terrific team and have already made some encouraging progress, and we’re excited to see where this work takes us and what it will allow us to build for the people we serve.”