Ian Goodfellow — the research scientist who pioneered generative adversarial networks (GANs) — has left Google Brain and joined Apple to direct a special machine learning project, according to his Linkedln profile updated today and CNBC.
Goodfellow is the second top-notch AI talent Apple has poached from Google in the past 12 months as the company beefs up its AI strategy. Former Google AI Chief John Giannandrea joined the company to became Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Strategy, overseeing all AI and ML development including Core ML and Siri technologies. Giannandrea and Goodfellow previously worked together at Google, and Goodfellow seems almost hand-picked for his new position.
Goodfellow obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science from Stanford University and apprenticed to Turing Award honoree Yoshua Bengio while a PhD student at Université de Montréal. He has also worked at OpenAI, a top AI research company in San Francisco.
Goodfellow’s most notable contribution is the generative adversarial network (GAN) he introduced in 2014. A GAN comprises two neural nets: a Generator that forges a new data instance, and a Discriminator that then distinguishes fake data created by the Generator from real data. The two neural nets challenge each other with increasingly realistic fakes, both optimizing their strategies until their generated data is indistinguishable from the real data.
Over the last five years GANs have made huge breakthroughs in image generation and can now produce highly convincing fake images of animals, landscapes, human faces, etc. An example is thispersondoesnotexist.com — a website that synthesizes human faces. The success of GANs however has also opened a Pandora’s box of ethical questions and potential dangers. GANs for example enabled the “deepfake” face-swapping technology that has generated fake celebrity porn videos, and there are concerns they could be used to generate fake news to manipulate public opinion etc.
Apple is clearly in team building mode. The company recently raised the stakes in auto development by hiring former Tesla Vice President of Engineering Michael Schwekutsch as Senior Director of Engineering in another Apple “special project group.”
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen