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Google Snags Alexa’s Top AI Visionary

A former senior manager and lead for Alexa AI has left Amazon for a new position at Google.

According to Quartz, Ashwin Ram is now technical director of AI for Google Cloud.

“Excited to share that I’m joining Google Cloud as Technical Director of AI in the Office of the CTO,” Ram wrote in a LinkedIn post. “Google arguably has the best AI on the planet; my role will be to help make that AI even better and broadly available to everyone. I’ve had an awesome couple of years at Amazon Alexa working with some of the smartest people I know. Delighted to have had the opportunity to create and lead Alexa Prize and to experience this legendary Day 1 company from the inside.”

While at Amazon, one of Ram’s biggest achievements was the creation of the Alexa Prize in 2016, which offered a total of $2.5 million to universities that participated in a competition to see if they could design a bot that could “coherently and engagingly” have a conversation with humans for 20 minutes.

AI talent is hard to come by, especially managers like Ram who have been working in the industry since before the deep learning boom. And as competition between Amazon, Google and Microsoft heats up, some valuable candidates are being offered millions to come on board.

For its part, Google Cloud has been busily bringing high-level talent on board. In 2016, the company hired famed image recognition expert Fei-Fei Li and Jia Li, head of research for Snap, for top roles in the cloud business.

And in 2017, Google launched a new venture capital fund focused on artificial intelligence, with Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai recently proclaiming that Google aims to become “AI-first,” rather than “mobile-first.”

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