Apple Hires Google AI Expert Ian Goodfellow as Director of Machine Learning

One of Google’s top AI experts has left the company to join Apple’s special projects group.

According to a new report from CNBC, Ian Goodfellow — the research scientist who pioneered generative adversarial networks (GANs) — has left Google and joined Apple to direct a special machine learning project

Goodfellow, who is in his mid-30s, will serve as the director of machine learning inside Apple’s Special Projects Group, a skunkworks division that owns a number of secretive projects, including Project Titan, Apple’s push into self-driving cars.

Goodfellow is best known for inventing generative artificial networks (GANs), which pair two AI algorithms together with the goal of continuously improving one another — one AI could be tasked with creating realistic images, while the other AI acts as a judge of real versus fake images, such that both AIs spur each other to become better over time.

“Goodfellow is the father of an AI approach known as general adversarial networks, or GANs,” reads the report. “The approach draws on two networks, one known as a generative network and the other known as a discriminative network, and can be used to come up with unusual and creative outputs in the form of audio, video and text.”

Goodfellow earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science at Stanford University, and his Ph.D. in machine learning from the Université de Montréal. He joined Google in mid-2013, quit three years later to join Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence lab OpenAI, and returned to Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2017.

Goodfellow is the second top-notch AI talent Apple has poached from Google in the past 12 months as the company beefs up its AI strategy. Former Google AI Chief John Giannandrea joined the company to become Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Strategy, overseeing all AI and ML development including Core ML and Siri technologies.

Giannandrea and Goodfellow previously worked together at Google, and Goodfellow seems almost hand-picked for his new position. Google confirmed the departure of Goodfellow in a statement, while Apple declined to comment.

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