Why Google is recruiting Aussies for AI breakthroughs

Google is tapping Australian scientists and researchers to play a major role in its artificial intelligence projects, with the company's head of research saying local teams could make life-changing breakthroughs.

Google Research general manager Yossi Matias, who visited the country this week, said he expected the biggest Australian successes to come in the fields of the environment and health.

His visit came as the tech giant called on the federal government to carefully consider any restrictions placed on AI technology to avoid "excessively inhibiting" innovation and cutting short Australia's potential.

Google building
Google has urged Australia to carefully consider any restrictions placed on AI technology. (AP PHOTO)

Mr Matias, who recently announced several AI projects at Google's annual developers' conference, said Australian researchers had a history of making discoveries for the company.

One Australian research project used satellite imagery to detect bushfires and make the information available on Google Maps.

Local research teams were increasingly using artificial intelligence technology to crunch data faster and make more projects possible.

"We have a broad scope of what we're looking into in research, and the team here is growing," Mr Matias said.

"I expect them to work on problems that are particular to Australia but also to the world, so that's exciting."

Google AI projects in Australia include mapping kelp forests off the coast of Tasmania, detecting the crown-of-thorns starfish in the Great Barrier Reef, and developing a search engine for nature sounds, called A2O Search.

Other projects, Mr Matias said, included a partnership with Cochlear and universities to develop AI models that could prioritise sounds and filter background noise in loud environments for people with hearing loss.

"There are many people around the world with challenges to hearing and Australia is the leader in some of this technology that can assist people," he said.

"AI is transformative technology and we're just at the beginning of the transformation."

Other AI projects instigated by Google include scans for diabetic retinopathy that can diagnose the eye condition in minutes, and seven-day flood forecasts.

Google has recently come under scrutiny for integrating artificial intelligence technology into its web search results, in a move that has produced erroneous advice such as adding glue to cheese to help it stick on a pizza or eating rocks.

The unintended results have since been removed.

"People still find (AI) magical and they're looking into the places where it's still nascent so it's making some gross mistakes but if I fast-forward, this will be part of everything," Mr Matias said.

"It's going to empower our health systems, our education systems... it's going to become part of every aspect of our lives."

Queensland bushfire
Australian researchers used satellite imagery to make bushfire information visible on Google Maps. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

The internet company also released a white paper this week on AI opportunities for Australia.

It called on the federal government to ensure any rules about its use are "proportionate, risk-based and focused on applications, recognising that AI is a general purpose technology".

The government appointed 12 experts in technology, law and science to its Artificial Intelligence Expert Group in February, and asked them to identify high-risk uses of AI technology and consider mandatory restrictions for them.

The task force, along with a National AI Centre and AI policies for government agencies, received $39.9 million funding in the recent budget.