Google leaves the Collaborative Innovation Center, relocates to space in East Liberty
Every time someone mentions the word “Google” on campus, ears visibly perk up. At a school known for having a large population of computer science majors, any news concerning the Internet goliath presents many possibilities: new gadgets to supply any techie’s cravings, jobs for recent graduates, or just the chance that something potentially decade-defining is about to happen.
Yet the news of late is more bittersweet than usual. After four years of unprecedented partnership with Carnegie Mellon, Apple, Intel, and other big names in technology, Google is moving out of the campus’ Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) into its own building in Pittsburgh.
Beginning in December 2005, Google and former Carnegie Mellon computer science faculty member Andrew Moore have been working together to initiate a Pittsburgh branch of the company. It seemed only fitting to establish offices in the CIC, a space built especially for the purpose of bringing together the great computer science minds at Carnegie Mellon and the technology leaders of today.
Despite Google’s departure from campus property, the corperation still wishes to advance cooperation with the university, its faculty, and its students. Just this past September, Google purchased a Carnegie Mellon-based company, reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA assigns a new, dual use to CAPTCHAs, the distorted-letter tests found at the bottom of registration forms on many sites including Yahoo, Hotmail, PayPal, and Wikipedia. CAPTCHA, an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart,” distinguishes between human computer users and malevolent computer programs designed by spammers to obtain free email accounts. The tests require users to type the distorted letters they see.
“But there’s a twist — the words in many of the CAPTCHAs provided by reCAPTCHA come from scanned archival newspapers and old books. Computers find it hard to recognize these words because the ink and paper have degraded over time, but by typing them in as a CAPTCHA, crowds teach computers to read the scanned text,” Luis von Ahn, co-founder of reCAPTCHA, and Will Cathcart, Google product manager, stated in a Google Blog announcing the purchase. reCAPTCHA will continue to develop as both companies move into the new Pittsburgh headquarters.
Google is moving to an East Liberty location, Bakery Square, where they will claim a 40,000-square-foot space in the building formerly used as a Nabisco plant. With the expanded space, Google will be able to offer even more jobs than before, mostly in the field of engineering and software development. A recent Post-Gazette article reported that Google is “aggressively hiring” to fill up the extra space and that, “about one-half of the office’s current employees were educated at schools in the region — places like CMU, the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland — and Google plans to maintain a similar ratio as it expands.” With these statistics in mind, most students are not concerned about losing future opportunities. “Honestly, to the extent of my knowledge, I’m not sure it will make a difference,” said Andrey Grinshpun, a junior math and computer science major.
With the start of a new year, and a chance for new beginnings, Google’s move to East Liberty signals a new turn for both the university and the city of Pittsburgh. In a recent letter to the Carnegie Mellon community, President Jared Cohon called the move a “wonderful success story — for Google, for Carnegie Mellon, and for Pittsburgh.”
Moving to its own independent branch, Google has expressed the success of the alliance with a university, the growing potential of the CIC, the rising eminence of Pittsburgh as a technology hub, and the bright futures in store for students and graduates of Carnegie Mellon that rely on corporate success.