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Amazon to open machine learning R&D hub in Barcelona

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Amazon has announced plans to open a new machine learning-focused research and development (R&D) hub in Barcelona, and the internet giant expects to hire more than 100 engineers and scientists when it opens in early 2018.

Located in the urban renewal startup area known as 22@, the R&D center will actually be housed in the very same building as its recently announced Amazon Seller Support Hub, which is scheduled to open around the same time to help small online companies from Southern Europe sell on Amazon Marketplace.

“We want to work closely with Spain’s scientific community and universities to advance state of the art research in machine learning,” noted Ralf Herbrich, Amazon’s director of machine learning.

Amazon has been on something of a hiring spree of late, recently revealing plans to increase its headcount by 55 percent to 280,000 globally over 18 months. Just yesterday, the company announced its first fulfillment center in New York state will be landing in Staten Island, while a few months earlier Amazon posted 50,000 warehouse jobs in the U.S. Over in Europe, the company has been hiring across multiple disciplines, including machine learning — back in May Amazon announced plans to expand its development center in Cambridge, England, with room for 400 new hires who will work across machine learning, drones, Alexa digital, and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI).

In terms of how Amazon applies its machine learning research, well, the company often drills down into its vast swathes of data to forecast consumer demand for specific products, for example. It’s also used to improve its burgeoning AI digital assistant Alexa, which currently is only conversant in English (U.S. and U.K.) and German — that Barcelona is opening an R&D hub in Barcelona could hint that Spanish (or Catalan) could be next on Alexa’s language-learning list.

It’s also worth noting here that Barcelona is a major university city, while its status could serve to attract talent from neighboring cities and countries.

“Barcelona is an ideal location for our new research and development centre,” added François Nuyts, vice-president and country manager of Amazon Spain and Italy. “It has a large network of universities and the city’s quality of life make it also a highly appealing destination for international talent.”

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