District 15 will be the first office building in the Riverfront Landing development. Renderings by DLA+ Architecture.

In his many interviews and public testimonies over the last 18 months, embattled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said repeatedly that advanced artificial intelligence software holds the key to fixing the many flaws that leave his platform vulnerable to disinformation and outright theft of user information.

Whether he’s right or not, Pittsburgh will be leading that effort.

This weekend, company sources confirmed that the tech giant will be expanding their local artificial intelligence team into new offices in the Strip District. The company has leased space at the new District 15 building located at Smallman and 15th streets. The building, still under construction, is expected to offer 105,000 square feet of office space over four floors. Facebook has yet to confirm how much of that space they plan to occupy.

When plans for District 15 were announced earlier this year Bridgeville-based developer RDC Inc., the company’s president Shawn Fox told us that 18-foot ceilings on its first floor and a direct loading dock were designed to attract R&D companies.

Facebook already runs a virtual reality lab in North Oakland and announced this July that is would be funding an AI-focused laboratory on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison declined to offer more details on the scale or the mission of the new offices at this point, saying only, “We are excited to expand our team in Pittsburgh because of the high quality of tech talent in the area.”

Carnegie Mellon University has been pioneering many of the technologies that fall under the broad umbrella of “artificial intelligence” for decades. As these technologies have been increasingly incorporated into smartphones and consumer products over the last several years, the nation’s most prominent tech companies have poured millions into artificial intelligence research facilities in and around Pittsburgh.

This year alone, both Google and Bosch have announced plans to open local artificial intelligence labs and underwrite related research taking place at CMU. Uber, with a staff largely poached from CMU, has been testing self-driving cars in the area since 2015, though no longer on city streets.

As the MIT business review noted in an article earlier this year, “Pittsburgh is reinventing itself, using the advances in automation, robots, and artificial intelligence coming out of its schools — particularly Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) — to try to create a high-tech economy.”

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.