The Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) lab today announced a new partnership program that will benefit academic researchers in Europe. It’s not just that Facebook will work in lockstep with the academics — Facebook will actually be giving out 25 servers powered with graphics processing units (GPUs), free of charge.
“These will be utilized to accelerate research efforts in AI and machine learning. FAIR will also work with recipients to ensure they have the software required to run the servers and send researchers to collaborate with these institutions,” FAIR engineering director Serkan Piantino and research lead Florent Perronnin wrote in a blog post.
Why is this interesting? Because it’s a novel way for Facebook to keep its eye on some of the most promising AI researchers and techniques. Eventually these giveaways could turn into hires for Facebook. And if that does happen, the researchers will already be well acquainted with Facebook’s AI hardware and software. There are certainly other stacks to choose from. With the donations of real gear, Facebook is being proactive.
The first person to receive four of these GPU servers is Klaus-Robert Müller of Technische Universität Berlin. “Dr. Müller will receive four GPU servers that will enable his team to make quicker progress in two research areas: image analysis of breast cancer and chemical modeling of molecules,” Piantino and Perronnin wrote.
It’s not as if the appearance of the hardware in claustrophobic university basement offices will be a revelation. Facebook last year shared the designs for its AI servers for all to inspect. And Facebook has open-sourced some of its AI software.
And the FAIR lab has been growing, particularly in Europe. With this partnership program, continuing expansion would not be a surprise.