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Google seeks to influence AI research by giving software away

NEW YORK — Google wants to set the standard on artificial intelligence (AI).

NEW YORK — Google wants to set the standard on artificial intelligence (AI).

The Web company, seeking to influence how people design, test and run AI systems, is making its internal AI development software available for free. Google’s Alphabet subsidiary is releasing a program called TensorFlow as freely available open-source software, it said on Monday. It is based on the same internal system Google has spent several years developing to support its AI software and other mathematically complex programs.

AI enables products such as personal assistants, including Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana. It also lets Facebook and Google’s software automatically identify and tag the contents of images uploaded into their systems. It makes entirely new product categories possible, ranging from self-driving cars from Tesla and Google, to new forms of entertainment in virtual reality applications being developed by Facebook for its virtual-reality system Oculus.

The release of TensorFlow means anyone can download and modify the development software that underpins RankBrain, the AI powering part of Google’s search engine and new features such as its Smart Reply e-mail tool, Google wrote in a blog post.

Companies ranging from Google to Facebook and Microsoft bet that by being open they can entice talented academics to work for them, while encouraging the wider community to work on new AI technologies. Other companies, such as Apple and Amazon, have been more secretive in the past, but are seeking to be more open.

Google aims to make TensorFlow a part of the standard toolset used by researchers, said spokesman Jason Freidenfelds.

The main factor that could make or break TensorFlow is Google’s involvement with the open-source community that adopts it. Mr Christopher Manning, a Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at Stanford University, said the system can perform operations much faster than other tools. “As a researcher, if a tool makes you faster that’s pretty compelling. Based on the evidence available to me now, I think it will be widely adopted,” he said. BLOOMBERG

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