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Four AI pioneers win top Spanish science prize

Four scientists, including two Britons, considered pioneers in the field of artificial intelligence were awarded Wednesday Spain’s prestigious Princess of Asturias prize for scientific research.

The jury honoured Britain’s Geoffrey Hinton and Demis Hassabis along with France’s Yann LeCun and Canada’s Yoshua Bengio for their “contributions to the advancement of artificial intelligence and its full integration in society.”

“Their contributions to the development of ‘deep learning’ have led to major advances in techniques as diverse as speech recognition… object perception, machine translation, strategy optimisation, the analysis of protein structure, medical diagnosis and many others,” it said.

Hinton and Bengio were already honoured with in 2018 with the Turing Award, which is sometimes referred to as “the Nobel Prize of computing”.

Deep learning involves building computer programmes that loosely mimic the structure of animal brains, with many layers of artificial neurons that process data.

It is seen as a promising tool for the development of self-driving cars and other futuristic technologies.

The 50,000-euro ($52,000) award is one of eight Asturias prizes handed out every year by a foundation named after Crown Princess Leonor.

Other categories include social sciences, sport and scientific research.

The awards are presented each autumn in the northern city of Oviedo in a ceremony broadcast live on Spanish television.