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Here’s the latest project from Google’s ultra-secret Google X Labs, where Google works on fringe technology projects like self-driving cars and computerized glasses: learning how to find cats in YouTube videos.Google X is developing a huge network of computers that are able to learn on their own what is present in a YouTube video through a process called machine learning, John Markoff at the New York Times reports.
The Google research team, led by a Stanford University computer scientist named Andrew Ng and Google fellow Jeff Dean, networked 16,000 computers and fed them random thumbnail images, each one extracted from 10 million videos on YouTube, the New York Times reports.
The research began years ago, in an attempt to simulate the human brain, the Times reports.
By culling millions of YouTube videos and scanning thumbnail images from the videos, the computer cluster was able to determine what a “cat” is on its own, rather than being programmed to find cats in those videos.
Here was the scientists’ reaction, according to the New York Times:
Currently much commercial machine vision technology is done by having humans “supervise” the learning process by labelling specific features. In the Google research, the machine was given no help in identifying features.
“The idea is that instead of having teams of researchers trying to find out how to find edges, you instead throw a ton of data at the algorithm and you let the data speak and have the software automatically learn from the data,” Dr. Ng said.
“We never told it during the training, ‘This is a cat,’ ” said Dr. Dean, who originally helped Google design the software that lets it easily break programs into many tasks that can be computed simultaneously. “It basically invented the concept of a cat. We probably have other ones that are side views of cats.”
The Google brain assembled a dreamlike digital image of a cat by employing a hierarchy of memory locations to successively cull out general features after being exposed to millions of images. The scientists said, however, that it appeared they had developed a cybernetic cousin to what takes place in the brain’s visual cortex.