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Andrew Moore, dean of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science, in his office this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

After an interesting year for Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence group, Andrew Moore, dean of computer science at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, will become head of the division at the end of the year, with current leader Fei Fei Li returning to Stanford in a move that Google said was all part of the original plan.

Moore, a former Google employee, will rejoin the company at the end of the current semester at Carnegie Mellon, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced in a blog post. “We are incredibly fortunate to have Andrew’s leadership at this point in our development as we define how we will expand bringing AI and ML technologies and solutions to developers and organizations all over the world,” she wrote.

Fei Fei Li, outgoing head of Google Cloud AI and director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. (Google Photo)

Google’s artificial intelligence research team is considered among the best in the world, but it endured some high-profile setbacks this year after employees demanded that the cloud group stop working with the Department of Defense on Project Maven, which used image-recognition techniques to target drone strikes. In August, Greene announced that Google would not renew its contract with the Pentagon for those services, a move that also likely took the company out of the running for the $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract under consideration by the military.

That experience also led Google to articulate a set of values for its artificial intelligence efforts, which included a vow to avoid working on projects that involve “weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.”

Li was at the center of many of those debates during her time at Google, at one point reportedly warning Google executives to tread carefully when discussing AI and the military. She plans to return to Stanford, where she never relinquished her position as head of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, after two years at the company.

For his part, Moore opened Google’s Pittsburgh office back in 2006 and plans to return to that office in his new role after four years at Carnegie Mellon. In an interview with GeekWire earlier this year as part of our visit to Pittsburgh, Moore expressed an interest in the topic of “emotional intelligence,” the notion of teaching computers how to detect and understand human emotions, as one of the next emerging areas in this field.

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