Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the Korean-based electronics giant, will open a new artificial-intelligence center in Cambridge, England, as the company seeks to benefit from cutting-edge academic research into the technology.
Andrew Blake, a pioneering researcher in the development of systems that enable computers to interpret visual data, and a former director of Microsoft Corp.’s Cambridge Research Lab, will head the new Samsung AI center, the company said Tuesday.
The center may hire as many as 150 AI experts, bringing the total number of people Samsung has working on research and development in the U.K. to 400 "in the near future," the company said.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Samsung’s new lab would create high-paying, high-skilled jobs. "It is a vote of confidence in the U.K. as a world leader in artificial-intelligence," she said.
Samsung said it selected Cambridge because the University of Cambridge is world-renowned for its work on machine-learning and because the city already had a number of other prominent AI research labs, including Microsoft’s.
Blake said the new Cambridge lab would focus on areas such as getting computers to recognize human emotions and ways to improve how people communicate and interact with increasingly intelligent machines.
Hyun-suk Kim, Samsung’s chief executive officer, said the company would be looking at uses of AI that help provide users of devices, such as the Korean manufacturer’s phones, with more personalized services that better understood human behavior.
Samsung joins a number of technology companies ramping up research into artificial-intelligence around the globe. Facebook Inc. announced the opening of two new AI labs, in Pittsburgh and Seattle, earlier this month. DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence company owned by Alphabet Inc., announced the opening of a new lab in Paris in March and last year expanded in Montreal and Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada.
But new corporate research labs have often poached top academic computer scientists, luring them with pay packages that sometimes reach into seven figures, raising fears about a brain drain that may ultimately undercut the training of the next generation of scientists. In one of the most infamous examples, Uber hired 40 researchers and engineers away from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics lab in Pittsburgh to staff its own self-driving car effort.
In some cases, companies have tried to allay such fears by emphasizing that top academic hires will maintain a university affiliation or continue to have some role supervising students and teaching. Samsung said Blake will continue to be affiliated with the University of Cambridge and supervise PhD students despite his appointment.