Google AI and search chief John Giannandrea steps down

It looks like Google is making some changes to its AI team, starting at the top. As The Information first reported, Google’s AI chief John Giannandrea is leaving his post. Last year, Giannandrea expanded his role as the company’s AI chief, after joining Google in 2010, to include search, too.

We reached out to Google and the company confirmed these changes. According to a spokesperson, Giannandrea decided to step down. The move, the company tells us, will allow him to get more hands-on time with technology and our understanding is that he will stay at Google.

During his tenure at Google, Giannandrea kept a pretty low profile, with few public appearances. For the most part, the left that role to others in the company.

The current head of the Google Brain project, Jeff Dean, who joined Google back in 1999, will take Giannandrea’s role in Google’s AI group, and Ben Gomes, the company’s current VP of search engineering, will become the company’s new search chief.

Overall, this is a bit of a curious turn of events, but it does make sense to bring the Google Brain project and the company’s other AI initiatives under a single umbrella.

As he told me at our Disrupt event in San Francisco last year, his view of AI is pretty practical and, while he acknowledge the need for ethics to inform AI research and products, he definitely isn’t worried about the AI apocalypse. “I’m definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse,” he said. “I just object to the hype and soundbites that some people are making.”