Though we can sit around and talk about the threat of Skynet (as we have a little in comments on my previous posts) it seems the tech world is committed to the pursuit and enhancement of artificial intelligence. In fact, you’re almost not a leading tech company right now if I google your name + artificial intelligence and I get zero results. AI startups are also in hot demand. So what exactly are the technology leaders planning?
Microsoft – CEO Satya Nadella doesn’t keep it a secret that AI is key for his company “AI is at the intersection of our ambitions.” Even with the socially failed Tay chatbot experiment, Microsoft learnt that at least in the USA, chatbots would need to be built to be resilient to attacks. Most recently, Microsoft announced a partnership to support Elon Musk & Co’s OpenAI non-profit AI research organization with Azure computing power. Microsoft is staying true to its corporate mission, democratizing AI so it’s accessible for every person and every organization on the planet to help them achieve more.
Google: Google’s research division has been hard at work on Machine Intelligence for years, boasting 623 publications to-date in their library (that they are happy to publicly share). Parent company Alphabet boasts the neural network company Deep Mind in its collection, acquired in 2014. Within the last few days, Google have added Jia Li (head of research at Snapchat) and Fei-Fei-Li (director of the AI lab at Stanford University) to lead a new group with the Google Cloud division.
Facebook: They’ve got access to your data and already have a reputation for serving you with targeted information. Facebook is focusing on how to scale, to deliver promises like “We’re trying to build more than 1.5 billion AI agents—one for every person who uses Facebook or any of its products.” Joaquin Candela, the head of the Applied Machine Learning group wins the award for my favorite AI quote though “We tend to take things like storage, networking, and compute for granted,” he says. “When the video teams builds live videos, people don’t realize the magnitude of this thing. It’s insane. The infrastructure team is just there, shipping magic—making the impossible possible. We need to do the same with AI. We need to make AI be so completely part of our engineering fabric that you take it for granted.” As an infrastructure junkie, I like anyone who calls my work ‘magic’.
Apple: Jumping on the AI bandwagon, Apple is kind of sad that their AI is so unobtrusive that people don’t even realize Apple’s in the AI game. And we’re not just talking about Siri. Apple doesn’t have a dedicated machine learning department, but the capability underpins a lot of their product capabilities. They are certainly quieter than other brands about what they are working on behind the scenes. One interesting development is the enhancement of image processing software using AI, so physical lens hardware will no longer be the defining factor in camera capability.
Cisco: Not wanting to miss out either, Cisco have developed their own virtual assistance called Monica. I’d never heard of her except for the girl from Friends, but it’s been a few years since I touched a corporate telepresence system. Restricted to the office right now, Cisco has plans to increase Monica’s usefulness. It could be handy to say ‘Monica, find me the PowerPoint that Jo presentation last Thursday’. Back at its core business, Cisco has also been smart with AI company acquisitions, snapping up Cognitive Security who use AI techniques to detect advanced cyber threats.
IBM: The granddaddy of AI, IBM’s Watson super computer has grown up a little from winning games of Jeopardy. At CES 2016, IBM CEO Ginny Rometty unveiled strategic partnerships with sportswear maker Under Armour, Softbank Robotics’ Pepper and more. IBM’s Cognitive Business Solutions unit is banking on AI as the future of business, with smarts like “When people ask how Watson is different than a search engine, I tell them to go on Google and type 'anything that's not an elephant.' What do you get? Tons of pictures of elephants. But Watson knows those subtle differences. It understands that when feet and noses run, those are very different things”
There you have it. The tech giants are determined to make this happen, whether we like it or not...