Like any industry, technology follows trends that pave a path into the future. As it stands right, the two biggest trends are artificial intelligence (AI) and, related to that, robotics. It's no surprise that Facebook is increasing its investments into those sectors, both by hiring a handful of top-level computer scientists and by building new facilities.
This is all an extension of Facebook's AI Research (FAIR) division, which it created over four years ago to focus on advancing the science and technology of AI. It's a pretty flexible setup for participants—researchers have the freedom to oversee their own projects. They also often collaborate with educational institutions, with Facebook providing money and hardware resources to specific universities.
Building on this, Facebook announced a series of new hires. One of those is Jessica Hodgins, a professor of robotics and computer science at Carnegie Melon University. She will lead a new FAIR lab in Pittsburgh. That lab will focus on robotics, which Hodgins bringing his experience in computer graphics, animations, and robotics with an emphasis on analyzing human motion.
Jessica is joined by Abhinav Gupta, an associate professor at the same university, who will focus on large-scale visual and robot learning, self-supervised learning, and reasoning.
Facebook's other hires will join existing labs in various parts of the world, including Seattle, London, and Menlo Park. Collectively, they will focus on a wide range of AI technology. In doing so, Facebook is positioning itself to be a major research and development outfit in AI and robotics.
"We’re excited to continue investing in academia, educating the next generation of researchers and engineers, and strengthening interaction across AI disciplines that can traditionally become siloed," Facebook said.
Facebook is already deeply involved in AI, partly out of necessity. Not only does it have to sift through and moderate a dizzying number of posts—more than it can possible regulate with just human workers, the proliferation of 'fake news' has upped the ante. Beyond that, however, Facebook has been developing AI for actual projects, not just moderating.
The company's foray into robotics hasn't been as extensive, at least to this point. With these new hires and continued investments, Facebook could become a top player in both fields.