Facebook has formed a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) research team that will work out of the company’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, Haaretz reported this week.
The 10-person team, called Data.AI, “will focus on machine learning algorithms that can improve the company’s internal interface and create new tools for data analysis, the company said in a statement cited by CTech by Calcalist. “The team will work to make Facebook’s infrastructure smarter and capable of learning from previous experience in order to help engineers solve problems, predict future events and issues, and reach relevant data more quickly,” according to the report
Facebook’s R&D Center employs some 200 people and recently set up shop in a new office at Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Sarona Tower. The company’s Israeli operations are headquartered on Rothschild Boulevard.
State of AI
According to a recent report, AI is a major source of growth for the Israeli tech industry.
Israel is home to over 1,000 companies, academic research centers, and multinational R&D centers specializing in AI, including those that develop core AI technologies, as well as those that utilize AI technologies for their vertical-related products such as in healthcare, cybersecurity, automotive, and manufacturing among others, according to the Start-Up Nation Central report.
Israeli companies specializing in artificial intelligence raised nearly 40 percent of the total venture capital funds raised by the Israeli tech ecosystem for 2018, despite accounting for just 17 percent of the total number of technology companies in the country, the report noted.
The SNC report noted that a number of events in 2018 boosted the AI ecosystem in Israel, including the launch of a new Center for Artificial Intelligence by Intel and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and the announcement by US tech giant Nvidia (which acquired Israel’s Mellanox Technologies last month for $6.9 billion) that it too was opening a new AI research center.
A number of high-profile AI products developed by Israeli teams working for multinationals were also unveiled this year. In May, Google came out with Google Duplex, a system for conducting natural sounding conversations developed by Yaniv Leviathan, principal engineer, and Yossi Matias, vice president of engineering and the managing director of Google’s R&D Center in Tel Aviv. And in July 2018, IBM unveiled Project Debater, a system powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that can debate humans, developed over six years in IBM’s Haifa research division in Israel.
Earlier this year, the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) warned that despite industry achievements, Israel was lagging behind other countries regarding investment in AI infrastructures and urgently needed a national AI strategy to keep its edge. The IIA called for the consolidation of all sectors – government, academia, and industry – to establish a vision and a strategy on AI for the Israeli economy.