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Ex-Twitter data science VP joins eBay as AI chief

Former Twitter vice president of data science Jan Pederson has been named chief scientist for artificial intelligence (AI) at online retail marketplace eBay, as the company looks to ramp up its use of cutting-edge systems and technology.

Pederson will be responsible for charting eBay's technology strategy as it relates to AI, including enhanced ways in which the company interacts with its consumers.

Within the AI focus, Pederson and eBay will be looking at how to leverage computer vision, natural language understanding and machine learning, in relation to boosting customer experiences across the eBay ecosystem.

The new recruit, who will start the job on 20 February, will be tasked with setting the agenda for AI R&D investments, as well as leading a team of research, data and applied scientists as eBay looks to take a leading role in the area of AI-enabled commerce.

At Twitter Pederson led the company’s investment in machine learning infrastructure and data analytics. Before arriving at the social media company he spent almost ten years at Microsoft in various search-related leadership roles, and was a technical fellow and chief scientist for Core Search.

“Jan is a true pioneer in the industry, with over 30 years developing search, deep learning, machine learning and AI technologies at scale,” explained Devin Wenig, president and CEO of eBay.

“He joins us at a pivotal moment when AI sciences including computer vision and deep learning are now capable of transforming personalised, immersive shopping experiences. eBay runs on AI and our continued innovation under Jan’s leadership will transform each meaningful moment we have with our buyers and sellers.”

Pedersen will be based at eBay’s head office in San Jose, California, and will report to chief technology officer Steve Fisher.

Back at the end of last year, eBay's chief product officer, RJ Pittman, called on retailers to embrace AI and ensure it is the driving force of business decisions in the coming years.

Speaking at Shoptalk Europe in Copenhagen, he said: “It’s bigger than the web and the mobile revolution combined. By 2020 if we’re not engaged with this technology and making it a meaningful part of our businesses – we are braindead.”