It’s hard to pinpoint the exact path that AI will take, but with companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft making huge strides and Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk calling for AI to be regulated and monitored, it is definitely a hotly debated topic.
Here are nine tech giants that are investing in artificial intelligence…
1. Tech giants investing in AI: Microsoft
Yesterday, Microsoft Ventures launched a new fund for AI startups. Founded in January 2016, Microsoft Ventures is a VC fund created by Microsoft that focuses on ‘investing in AI companies focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society’, along with machine learning, big data, the cloud, security and SaaS.Microsoft also announced the first backer for Element AI, a Montreal-based AI incubator.What’s more, Microsoft has launched its Microsoft’s project Oxford that aims to understand its users with face, emotion and speech application program interfaces (APIs).In addition, Microsoft announced at Future Decoded earlier in the year that developers now have access to an emotion detection service that can assign an emotion to a person depending on their facial expression. This kind of facial recognition allows photos to be edited depending on the feelings expressed in them.
After joining other tech giants to form Partnership in AI, we’ll soon see Microsoft making even bigger moves in artificial intelligence.
2. Tech giants investing in AI: Uber
In December 2016, Uber acquired Geometric Intelligence, an AI startup cofounded by noted scientists aiming to ‘redefine the boundaries of machine learning’. In this strategic move, Geometric Intelligence’s 15 employees will create a new and dedicated AI lab based at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco.”In spite of notable wins with machine learning in recent years, we are still very much in the early innings of machine intelligence. The formation of Uber AI Labs, to be directed by Geometric’s Founding CEO Gary Marcus, represents Uber’s commitment to advancing the state of the art, driven by our vision that moving people and things in the physical world can be radically faster, safer and accessible to all,” said Uber’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden in a press release.With Uber investing heavily in autonomous driving technology, it’s not a big surprise that it would invest in AI operations, potentially rivalling those of tech giants Google, Microsoft and Facebook.
3. Tech giants investing in AI: Google
In 2014, Google bought artificial intelligence startup DeepMind for a huge $400 million (£263 million), making it one of the largest AI acquisitions to date.Earlier this year, Google DeepMind has created an AI project that uses reasoning to conquer the London Underground. In a paper published by Nature, it explained how the AI and human-like mind could find the quickest route between underground stations, using neural networks to store data and recall information to solve problems.For example, it could work out where passengers would end up if they took the tube from Holloway Road, two stops and the Victoria in the opposite direction four stops.What’s more, earlier this year Google announced that its machine learning system TensorFlow will be available free for everyone. Machine learning can be found in image and speech recognition technology and translation applications. It mimics the way the human brain works and recognises patterns.
4. Tech giants investing in AI: Facebook
According to The Next Web, Facebook is helping blind people ‘see’ photos by using artificial intelligence to narrate them via its iOS app. By using neural networks, the Facebook app will generate a description for every photo e.g. ‘three women smiling with champagne’.In addition,Facebook is reportedly using artificial intelligence to produce detailed maps illustrating population density and the access to internet across the globe. This should help Facebook bring internet to parts of the world that are without access. Facebook has analysed 20 countries and 21.6 million square kilometres amounting to 350TB of data.Facebook is also reported to be creating deep learning AI which aims to find out what matters to Facebook users. Facebook is definitely not new to the AI game. In 2010 it introduced facial recognition technology that could identify people in posted photos, and in 2013 Mark Zuckerberg dedicated a lab to AI research. Zuckerberg also recruited deep learning expert Yann LeCun to set up the AI headquarters. Facebook says its plan for AI is to personalise what matters to each user, populating timelines with things they genuinely care about rather than people and posts they’d prefer not to see.
5. Tech giants investing in AI: Apple
Earlier this year, Apple has bought artificial intelligence startup Emotient and while it’s not completely clear what Apple’s plans are, reports suggest that the acquisition will centre on facial recognition technology and customers reaction to ads.In October 2015, Apple acquired UK-based AI company Vocal IQ. It is reported that Apple aims to develop Siri further and use Vocal IQ’s speech AI software. In 2014 Vocal IQ produced voice-control technology for General Motors, allowing users to turn on and off certain functions within the car via voice command – so its potential for Internet of Things based AI is high.
6. Tech giants investing in AI: IBM
Famed for its Watson computer (a computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language), IBM aims to use computers to extract meaning from photos, videos, text and speech. In 2011 Watson won the US quiz show Jeopardy, outperforming his human counterparts. What’s more, IBM has teamed up with graphics processor Nvidia, which reportedly provides Watson with a response rate that is 1.7 times faster than before.IBM is also developing a teaching assistant app that will plan lessons based on approved material. Trials for this should begin next year in New York.
7. Tech giants investing in AI: Skype
Microsoft-owned Skype offers real-time language translations in six languages with more to come soon. This translation system will recognise users speech and convert it into translated text as you speak.
8. Tech giants investing in AI: Salesforce.com
In April 2016, Salesforce.com acquired MetaMind, an AI startup specialising in deep learning. Salesforce.com CEO Richard Socher stated in a blogpost:”With MetaMind and Salesforce.com coming together, we’ll be able to offer customers real AI solutions with breakthrough capabilities that further automate and personalise customer support, marketing automation, and many other business processes.”Previously, MetaMind had developed a unique system that runs on a short-term memory to answer questions that are in natural language. For example, when given a large piece of text, a MetaMind system should be able to answer questions like ‘what is the overall sentiment?’
9. Tech giants investing in AI: Shell
While not a traditional ‘tech’ company, Shell is set to launch a virtual assistant to answer online customers questions around the clock.