Amazon Alexa’s head AI researcher has left for Google

Moving on from Alexa.
Moving on from Alexa.
Image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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The researcher tasked with dreaming up new capabilities for Amazon’s Alexa is taking his talents to Google.

Ashwin Ram, former senior manager and lead for Alexa AI at Amazon, is now technical director of AI for Google Cloud, according to a post on LinkedIn. Talent in artificial intelligence is scarce, and companies are willing to pay millions to obtain new talent. Managers like Ram, who have been working on the technology since before the deep learning boom, are even more rare.

Google Cloud has been actively recruiting high-level talent as the business gains momentum, and competition with other cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft becomes more fierce. In 2016, Google hired famed image recognition expert Fei-Fei Li and head of research for Snap Jia Li for top roles in the cloud business.

Ram’s biggest influence on the company was the creation of the Alexa Prize, a competition to get users to talk to Alexa as long as possible, with the goal of 20 minutes.

“Google arguably has the best AI on the planet,” Ram said in the post announcing the new job. “My role will be to help make that AI even better and broadly available to everyone.”