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Facebook Hires Top University Brains To Boost AI Labs

July 19, 2018
Sustainability

Facebook has hired five top university professors in the US and the UK as part of an effort to strengthen its artificial intelligence research division.

The social media giant said the hires to its Facebook AI Research [FAIR] group will help it to set up a new FAIR lab in Pittsburgh, and strengthen existing offices in London, Seattle, and Menlo Park. 

The AI experts hail from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Washington, University of Oxford, and UC Berkeley. Facebook said their collective expertise spans robotics, natural language processing, and computer vision. 

Facebook’s AI recruitment drive comes after some of the world’s leading universities raised concerns that Silicon Valley tech giants are poaching their best researchers — tempting them away with lucrative packages that can surpass $1 million in the process. The New York Times wroteabout some of Facebook’s latest hires in May, saying Facebook was pressuring local universities.

But Facebook claims that it is using a “co-employment model” that is beneficial to itself and to universities. All of its new hires will retain part-time positions at their respective universities, Facebook said, adding that it will fund a number of PhDs at Oxford. [Google-owned DeepMind, which has poached dozens of academics from top universities, also funds PhDs at Oxford.]

“This dual affiliation model is common across FAIR, with many of our researchers around the world splitting their time between FAIR and a university,” wrote Yann LeCun, chief AI scientist at Facebook, in a blog post announcing the news.

LeCun added: “This model allows people within FAIR to continue teaching classes and advising graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, while publishing papers regularly. This co-employment appointment concept is similar to how many professors in medicine, law, and business operate.”

Carnegie Mellon University’s Jessica Hodgins, a professor of robotics and computer science, will lead the new Facebook AI lab in Pittsburgh, where she will be joined by Abhinav Gupta, an associate professor of robotics at Carnegie Melon University. 

In London, Oxford’s Andrea Vedaldi, an associate professor of engineering science, will join Facebook and focus on computer vision and machine learning. Facebook’s London office will also welcome the Bloomsbury AI researchers after Facebook acquired the company earlier this month for an undisclosed fee. 

In Seattle, the University of Washington’s Luke Zettlemoyer recently joined Facebook, while in Menlo Park, UC Berkeley’s Jitendra Malik joined the company. 

By: Sam Shead

Source: Forbes

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