Google will open artificial intelligence lab in Princeton

Photo of the new lab: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite.

Google will open an artificial intelligence lab in downtown Princeton this January that will be led by two Princeton University computer science professors.

The lab will be located at 1 Palmer Square, and will be staffed initially by a small group of faculty members, graduate students, undergraduate student researchers, recent graduates, and software engineers.

Professors Elad Hazan and Yoram Singer, who will lead the lab and will split their time working for Google and Princeton University, have been collaborating with Google for several years. 

The work in the lab will focus on machine learning — the study of how computers learn from existing information and develop the ability to draw conclusions and make decisions in new situations that were not in the original data. Examples include speech recognition systems that transcribe a wide spectrum of voices, and self-driving cars that process complex visual cues. The work will build on recent advances by Hazan, Singer, and their colleagues regarding optimization methods for machine learning to improve speed and accuracy while reducing required computing power.

“We feel it’s a great opportunity, both for machine learning theorists at Princeton to benefit from exposure to real-world computing problems, and for Google to benefit from long-term, unconstrained academic research that Google may incorporate into future products,” Singer said.

“A primary focus of the group is developing efficient methods for faster training of learning machines,” Hazan said. 

Emily Carter, dean of Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, said the collaboration is another example of how fundamental insights in mathematics and theoretical computer science drive new technologies that will reap benefits far beyond the original domain of the work.

Google’s computing resources will give the researchers the ability to run experiments that would otherwise be difficult as they optimize algorithms with millions of variables and perform trillions of calculations, said Google program manager Andrew Pierson.

Amy McDonald Sandjideh, a technical program manager at Google, said Princeton is an ideal partner. The community of artificial intelligence researchers is small, and continued progress requires new sources of inspiration and collaboration.

“We specifically chose a location very close to the University to promote such collaborations,” McDonald Sandjideh said. “Particularly having access to graduate students and even undergrads can provide a lot of inspiration. Sometimes you learn the most from teaching and helping younger people understand what you’ve been working on and that can really push you in new directions. That is a great benefit for Google in working more closely with universities like Princeton that have really excellent minds.”