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eBay has announced a major new hire in its push to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) across its ecommerce platform.

The company announced that it has lured Jan Pedersen from Twitter as its new VP and chief scientist for AI, and he will soon lead the company’s strategy across natural language processing, machine learning, and computer vision. He officially starts on February 20.

Pedersen has a long and distinguished engineering career in the technology industry according to his LinkedIn profile, serving in various chief scientist roles at AltaVista, Yahoo, and Amazon’s A9 before joining Microsoft in 2009. Then in January 2017, he announced he was joining Twitter as VP for data science, where he has spearheaded “Twitter’s investment in machine learning infrastructure and data analytics” for the past 12 months.

That he has left Twitter so soon may hint at broader problems at Twitter, which has lost a number of key executives in recent years, including COO Anthony Noto just a few weeks ago.


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At any rate, eBay has been doubling down on its AI efforts, introducing new computer vision search features that lets users search for items using existing photos, while a few months back it revealed support for voice-shopping through Google Assistant.

“If you’re not doing AI today, don’t expect to be around in a few years,” said Japjit Tulsi, VP of engineering at eBay, in an interview with VentureBeat last year. “It really is that important for companies to invest in — especially commerce companies.”

Pedersen, who has a Ph.D. in statistics from Stanford University, will be tasked with mapping out eBay’s AI strategy, which will include leading a team of scientists across various disciplines and “setting the agenda” for its AI efforts, according to a statement.

“Jan is a true pioneer in the industry, with over thirty years developing search, deep learning, machine learning, and AI technologies at scale,” said eBay president and CEO Devin Wenig. “He joins us at a pivotal moment when AI sciences including computer vision and deep learning are now capable of transforming personalized, immersive shopping experiences.”

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