Facebook Buys Confirm.io, Snags IBM’s Chief AI Exec

Facebook is expanding its artificial intelligence pedigree by hiring an IBM executive.

According to a report in CNBC, Jérôme Pesenti, who led the development of the Watson platform at IBM, will join Facebook as the vice president of AI. Pesenti was most recently at the European company BenevolentAI.

Executives from Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research group (FAIR) and its Applied Machine Learning group will report to Pesenti. In turn, Pesenti will report to Mike Schroepfer, the company’s CTO. A Facebook spokesman confirmed the appointment to CNBC, noting that Yann LeCun, an AI luminary from New York University who has been directing the FAIR unit since 2013, will give up that role to become the chief AI scientist at the social media company.

Facebook’s move to beef up its AI staff comes at a time when Google and Microsoft are also adding AI employees to their rosters in an effort to beef up their AI offerings. Facebook has made other moves to expand its AI offering in recent months. In September, the social media company disclosed it was opening an AI lab in Montreal. Back in August, it acquired Ozlo, a Silicon Valley AI tech startup, in an effort to build out its personal assistant for the Messenger platform. Earlier this week, Facebook announced plans to increase its Paris-based AI lab.

Separately, TechCrunch reported that Facebook confirmed that is has acquired startup Confirm.io, which has an API that enables other companies to verify government-issued ID in a speedy manner. The technology will be integrated into Facebook as a means of assisting users who are locked out of their accounts, at which time the Boston company will shut down. Confirm.io has raised around $4 million in venture funding, noted TechCrunch.


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