Google’s new AI hub in Paris proves that Google doesn’t feel safe around AI


This morning, Google CEO Sundar Pichai inaugurated a new hub dedicated to artificial intelligence in Paris. This hub is located in a recently renovated building near Google’s headquarters in Paris. It will accommodate around 300 researchers and engineers.

But if you look closely at where Google is located in Paris, you might think that Google has already launched an AI research center in Paris. back in 2018. In fact, the company told me it has no plans to create a new AI team for this new hub. There are new offices, but the team of 300 researchers and engineers who will work from the new hub already worked for Google Research and DeepMind, but also for YouTube and Chrome.

However, several government figures, such as Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, and Valérie Pécresse, the president of the Ile-de-France region, were there to welcome Sundar Pichai and congratulate Google for this announcement.

Image credits: Google

Given the involvement of Google’s top executive and members of the government, let’s dissect this communication effort. With the positioning of this announcement, Google wants to stay at the top of the list when it comes to attracting AI talent.

Google could have sent an email to its employees to let them know when they can collect their badges for the new office. Instead, the company decided it was a PR opportunity. The company needs to show that it cares about AI and that it is a priority.

And it is not for nothing that Google thinks it can attract AI talent to Paris. In recent years, several tech giants have set up AI research laboratories in Paris. In addition to Google, Facebook (now Meta) has created its Parisian research laboratory back in 2015 with Yann LeCun leading the AI ​​initiative — this research group is called FAIR, for Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research.

Since then, many researchers and engineers have left their jobs at large technology companies to create startups. Mistral AI is undoubtedly the most emblematic example since the young startup has already done it raised hundreds of millions dollars to develop new fundamental models.

But there is a thriving ecosystem of AI startups in Paris. Examples include Nabla, Dust, Swords And Giskard. In just a few years, some people working for these startups might also choose to work for Google if they’re looking for something a little different.

Everything is AI now

At the same time, this once again shows that Google is insecure about artificial intelligence. Since this building will house teams working not only on AI research projects but also on consumer products like YouTube and Chrome, Google could have simply called it “Google hub”.

But the company decided it was an AI hub. They want to say loud and clear that they are an AI company. Of course, the tech giant just launched Gemini Ultra, its most powerful large language model to date. But most people still think of ChatGPT when they think of an AI assistant.

One year ago At a press conference in Paris, Google unveiled Bard, its AI chatbot assistant now called Gemini. It was a rushed effort to catch up with ChatGPT.

But it was as much about launching a product as it was about planting a flag that the company is capable of launching an LLM-based chatbot – and then repeating it. Today’s new AI hub could be considered a continuation of this strategy of regular AI announcements.

Image credits: Éric Laignel / Architecture Studios for Google

To be fair, Google isn’t the only tech giant making big moves when it comes to AI investments. In addition to its financial commitment to OpenAI, ChatGPT’s parent company, Microsoft has also announced today an investment of 3.2 billion euros ($3.4 billion) over the next two years in Germany’s AI infrastructure.

Again, this investment is not focused exclusively on artificial intelligence. Microsoft plans to create data centers in Germany for its Azure cloud platform. Some of Azure’s products are focused on AI, but it is a much larger cloud provider with customers that have nothing to do with the AI ​​industry. So it’s not just a Google thing.


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