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Facebook Makes AI Hires, Investment

Four years after founding FAIR (Facebook AI Research), Facebook continues to tap academia’s top minds to support related research and development efforts.

To head up a new FAIR lab in Pittsburgh, the social giant just nabbed Jessica Hodgins, professor of robotics and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Designed to compliment Facebook’s Reality Lab, which is already in Pittsburgh, the new lab will focus on robotics, teaching machines to reason and support creativity, and what Facebook calls “lifelong learning systems” that can learn continuously for years and years.

Hodgins will be joined by Abhinav Gupta, associate professor of robotics, Carnegie Mellon. Both Hodgins and Gupta are expected to retain their positions at the university on a part-time basis.

Across the pond, Oxford University professor Andrea Vedaldi is joining Facebook’s London office, where he will focus on computer vision and machine learning. More specifically, Vedaldi will be researching image understanding on unsupervised learning through large and diverse visual datasets and by understanding geometric 3D reasoning.

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Vedaldi is expected to retain his associate professor of engineering science position with the university.

Back in Menlo Park, Facebook recently poached UC Berkeley professor Jitendra Malik to lead FAIR. Malik -- who is recognized for his work in computer vision -- will retain part-time affiliation with UC Berkeley to advise students.

Facebook doesn’t want to be seen as draining academia of its best and brightest minds, hence the part-time status of its new and recent hires.

“This dual affiliation model is common across FAIR, with many of our researchers around the world splitting their time between FAIR and a university,” Yann LeCun, Chief AI Scientist at Facebook notes in a new blog post.

Facebook is also promising millions in funding to the schools from which it is hiring AI talent. It also plans to support a number of PhD students who will conduct research in collaboration with researchers at FAIR and their university faculty.

Over the next 20 years, PwC just recently estimated the AI and robotics industries will create roughly 7.2 million jobs, while depriving humans of approximately 7 million jobs.

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