Tim Cook, CEO, speaks during Apple's annual world wide developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California Photograph:( Reuters )
Bengio is expected to lead a new AI research unit at Apple under John Giannandrea, senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy
Apple Inc said on Monday it has hired former distinguished Google scientist Samy Bengio, who left the search giant amid turmoil in its artificial intelligence research department.
Bengio is expected to lead a new AI research unit at Apple under John Giannandrea, senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy, two people familiar with the matter said. Giannandrea joined Apple in 2018 after spending about eight years at Google.
Bengio who left Google last week after about 14 years said last month he was pursuing "other exciting opportunities".
His decision followed Google's firings of fellow scientists Margaret Mitchell for taking company data and Timnit Gebru after an offer to resign.
Though at least two Google engineers had earlier resigned to protest the dismissal of artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Timnit Gebru, Bengio is the highest-profile employee yet to depart.
As one of the early leaders of the Google Brain research team, Bengio advanced the "deep learning" algorithms that underpin today's AI systems for analyzing images, speech and other data.
Google fired staff scientist Margaret Mitchell in February after alleging she transferred electronic files out of the company. It fired fellow researcher Gebru in December after she threatened to quit rather than retract a paper.
Mitchell has said she tried "to raise concerns about race and gender inequity, and speak up about Google's problematic firing of Dr. Gebru." Gebru has said the company wanted to suppress her criticism of its products and its efforts to increase workforce diversity. Google has said it accepted her offer to resign.
Bengio had defended the pair, who co-led a team of about a dozen people researching ethical issues related to AI software. In December, Bengio wrote on Facebook that he was stunned that Gebru, whom he was managing, was removed from the company without him being consulted.
Though he did not mention the firings in his farewell note, they influenced his decision to resign, people familiar with the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bengio wrote in the email, "I learned so much with all of you, in terms of machine learning research of course, but also on how difficult yet important it is to organize a large team of researchers so as to promote long term ambitious research, exploration, rigor, diversity and inclusion."
Nicolas Le Roux, a Google Brain researcher, told Reuters that Bengio had devoted himself to making the research organization more inclusive and "created a space where everyone felt welcome."
Google recently moved oversight of the AI ethics team from Bengio to vice president Marian Croak. In February, Croak told staff at a town hall that Google wanted management that could focus fully on that area, saying it had just been a small part of what Bengio was supporting.
Google also pledged several changes at the town hall aiming to regain researchers' trust.
(With inputs from agencies)