Google to open artificial intelligence lab in Princeton, N.J.

The company will focus on recruiting students, graduates, and others in the area to work on artificial intelligence, which powers features such as 'smart reply' in Gmail.

The Google AI lab in Princeton. (Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite)

The Google AI lab in Princeton. (Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite)

Next month, Google will open a new artificial intelligence lab just across the street from Princeton University in the New Jersey college town.

Two Princeton University professors have already worked with Google for years on machine learning, a subfield of computer science and artificial intelligence where computers can learn from existing data and make predictions. If you use Gmail, you’ve already seen an application of that in the “smart reply” feature, where Gmail suggests responses to emails.

The new lab will focus on gathering promising ideas for artificial intelligence from finding students, recent graduates, and others in the area, said Irina Kofman, the chief operating officer of Google AI.

“When you talk to students, and you talk to folks that aren’t necessarily at a big company, you get a lot of ideas that you might have not thought of,” she said. “With this particular opening, I’m excited to do that … exploring opportunities we might not, in our own office, be thinking about.”

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As examples of academic collaborations, Kofman cited Google’s funding for a University of Michigan project to predict which homes in Flint have lead pipes, as well as Google researchers who worked with Harvard scientists to predict earthquake aftershocks.

There also has been a bit of intellectual cross-pollination between Carnegie Mellon University and Google’s Pittsburgh office, which opened in 2006.

Andrew Moore, a Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science and robotics, opened the Pittsburgh office for Google, returned to the university as a dean in 2014, and is going back to Google this year.

Luis von Ahn, another Carnegie Mellon computer science professor, was a postdoctoral fellow at the university after getting his doctorate; sold his company to Google; became a staff research scientist at Google; and then went back to the university to become an associate professor. The company he sold makes CAPTCHAs, the puzzles with distorted bits of words or text you sometimes need to fill in as part of online forms to prove your humanity.

In February, Google said it would expand or build new offices and data centers in 14 states, including Pennsylvania.

The Princeton lab opening comes after Amazon’s announcement to build a new office in New York, and Apple’s announcement to build a new campus in Austin, Texas.

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