Google has acquired the artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind for $400 million, according to media reports on Monday.

The deal for the British company, which would be Google’s largest-ever European acquisition, was first reported by the website Recode.net and later confirmed by the Wall Street Journal.

The deal comes as the web software giant looks to spread its tentacles deeper into the real world. Google recently splashed out $3.2 billion to acquire Nest, a home automation company that sells a smart home thermostat, while also acquiring a string of robotic companies, including industry leader Boston Dynamics.

In June, it acquired Israeli traffic start-up Waze for a reported $1 billion.

DeepMind was founded by Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman. Its early commercial applications are in simulations, e-commerce and games.

According to the London-based start-up’s website, DeepMind combines “the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.” According to Re/code, DeepMind has a team of at least 50 people and has secured more than $50 million in funding, including from Founders Fund and Horizons Ventures.

The report said that the deal was personally led by Google founder and CEO Larry Page, who was largely motivated by the prospect of acquiring the company’s workforce.

Patent alliance between the giants

News of the deal followed closely the announcement of a patent alliance between Google and Samsung that covers the companies’ existing patents as well as those filed in the next ten years.

The terms of the agreement were not disclosed — but it could have huge impact on Apple which is the companies’ main smartphone rival.

Samsung is the largest seller of smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system and is embroiled in a protracted patent fight with Apple.

“We’re pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner Samsung,” said Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google. “By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation.”

(This article was published on January 28, 2014)
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