Facebook is upgrading the status of its Seattle AI research operation. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) After months of work to beef up its artificial intelligence research teams in Seattle and Pittsburgh, Facebook is acknowledging that those two cities are getting official status as AI labs in their own right. “Facebook AI Research is opening two new labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, which will join the existing sites in Menlo Park, New York, Paris, Montreal and Tel Aviv,” Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, . LeCun’s statement confirms what sources told GeekWire in March about , as well as rumors we heard back then about the social-media giant’s plans for Pittsburgh. As we reported in March, University of Washington computer science professor Luke Zettlemoyer is a key hire for Seattle’s newly designated FAIR lab. At the time, Facebook spokesman Ari Entin said Zettlemoyer would report to Menlo Park, but LeCun’s statement suggests that the Seattle operation will have more autonomy going forward. Two professors from Carnegie Mellon University, Abhinav Gupta and Jessica Hodgins, will be part of the Pittsburgh lab. Gupta specializes in computer vision. Hodgins focuses on computer graphics, animation and robotics, with an emphasis on analyzing human motion. All three professors will retain part-time positions at their universities, LeCun said. Back in March, Entin said Facebook plans to expand its AI research staff even further in Seattle. Referring to Zettlemoyer, he said, “Luke isn’t a single hire and we’re done.” Some worry that Facebook’s recruitment campaign will strain what’s already a highly competitive market for AI experts in Seattle — particularly when it comes to training the next generation of researchers. Zettlemoyer, for example, was recruited from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2, where he led the . After his departure, AI2 has continued to hire high-profile AI specialists, including as well as UW professors Noah Smith and Yejin Choi — who, like Zettlemoyer, are experts in natural language processing, or NLP. AI2’s creator, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, , the institute’s effort to develop AI agents with more common sense. As an added inducement, AI2 is making allowances for researchers to keep their university posts and collaborate with commercial AI ventures. Despite the added resources and wide leeway, it’s getting tougher to hold onto AI talent — due in part to Facebook’s recruitment drive. “What are the ethics of a major corporation suddenly going after the entire NLP faculty in a computer science department? I believe their original offers had the faculty members spending 80 percent of their time at Facebook, which would not allow them time to carry out their educational responsibilities at UW,” AI2’s chief executive officer, Oren Etzioni, told GeekWire in an email. “Has Facebook’s motto evolved into: ‘Move fast, and break academia’?” he asked. A quoted UW computer science professor Dan Weld as also voicing concern about Facebook’s drive. “It is worrisome that they are eating the seed corn,” Weld said. “If we lose all our faculty, it will be hard to keep preparing the next generation of researchers.” In his Facebook posting, LeCun took issue with the criticism. He noted that many FAIR researchers spend some of their time at universities, and that FAIR labs host resident graduate students as well. “This new modus operandi is redefining the relationship between academic research and industry research,” LeCun said. He said The New York Times’ report “erroneously qualifies this evolution as a ‘brain drain’ from academia.” “Facebook is careful not to deplete universities from their best faculty, by making it easy to maintain sizeable research and teaching activities in their academic labs,” LeCun wrote. “In fact, making these part-time splits possible is precisely the reason why we have been establishing labs in New York, Paris, Montreal, Tel Aviv, and now Seattle and Pittsburgh. It is the proximity to leading universities with talented faculty and the existence of a local talent pool that attract us.”
Two Union Square in downtown Seattle, where Apple expanded its engineering presence in the city. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Apple is significantly expanding its downtown Seattle engineering center, giving itself enough capacity for potentially close to 500 people across five floors inside one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers, GeekWire has learned. The expansion by the secretive tech company is the latest sign of the ferocious competition for tech talent in the Seattle region, where fellow tech titans Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook all have larger footprints. Apple is preparing to move into another floor at Two Union Square, a 56-story office tower in downtown Seattle, giving it all or part of five floors of the building, GeekWire has learned through permitting documents and visits to the building. The latest move brings Apple to more than 70,000 square feet, which equates to room for somewhere between 350 and 475 people, based on standard corporate leasing ratios for tech companies. With these moves, Apple is following through on a plan to expand its Seattle presence, These key card readers are among the few hints to Apple’s presence at Two Union Square in downtown Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) Apple established its first formal engineering office in Seattle with . A year later, it leased a floor and a half at Two Union Square. In 2016, Apple , establishing the office as a hub for developing artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. The competition for artificial intelligence talent is especially intense. Facebook recently from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which is in the midst of . Microsoft is also . Apple wouldn’t comment on its office space and doesn’t do much to boast about its presence. Its name isn’t listed on the main directory in the Two Union Square lobby. Most floors have little-to-no trace of Apple’s presence except key card readers outside entrances asking people to swipe their Apple ID badges. RELATED CONTENTCheck out GeekWire's established by out-of-town companies. The company’s job site lists in its Seattle office. The jobs are in a variety of areas including machine learning, smart home, data science, cloud computing and natural language processing. Apple is following an established blueprint of big tech companies opening engineering offices in the Seattle area to take advantage of the region’s deep talent pool. Fellow tech giants Google and Facebook are both prominent examples of that trend. Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., first expanded to the Seattle region in 2004, and today it has in the region. Google continues to scoop office space in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood at , even as on a new 600,000-square-foot campus in Amazon’s neighborhood. Facebook , employing just a couple people near Pike Place Market. Last month Facebook near Lake Union, two years after it debuted a big new office space designed by Frank Gehry. Those two structures have space for nearly 3,000 people combined. Facebook also , totaling 384,000 square feet just a few blocks from Amazon HQ.