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And for Google X’s Next Trick, It Will Identify Cat Videos

Published on June 25, 2012
by Liz Gannes

A neural network of 16,000 computers presented with stills from 10 million YouTube videos taught itself to recognize cats.

The Stanford-Google paper identifies these pictures as “the most responsive stimuli on the test set for the cat neuron.”

The seemingly trivial task is actually a huge achievement for machine learning, as John Markoff reports in the New York Times. The point is to train a face detection tool from unlabeled images.

Yup, cat video identification is the height of science!

The research project was designed and studied by a group including Andrew Ng of Stanford University and Jeff Dean of Google. It has now been moved out of Google X and into Google’s regular search and knowledge work.

The Stanford-Google system was 70 percent more accurate at recognizing object categories than previous efforts.

As a remarkable side note, Ng is on leave from Stanford to co-found and run the online learning start-up Coursera. Meanwhile, Sebastian Thrun — who has led Google X projects for self-driving cars and augmented reality glasses — was also until recently a Stanford professor until leaving to start the online learning start-up Udacity. Talk about interesting parallels.

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