With technology progressing at breakneck speed, we are entitled to have more power in our pockets than we can imagine. The concept of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has fascinated us over the decades as a major theme in any science fiction. The more absurd the concept, the more scintillating has been the tale. The most interesting (and somewhat scary) part of the story is that we are only a few steps away from making AI, the reality of our lives.
So will a day come when the entire human race on planet earth will have to come together to fight something like Skynet? Who knows? For the time being, chatbots are doing just fine as good little pets to digital entrepreneurs and marketers. Only once did Alice and Bob, the chatbots at Facebook, did something that all children do: invent their own (secret) language to speak to each other, when left unsupervised.
Will AI help humans or hurt them? Will humans control AI or will one day AI control humans? That remains to be seen sometime in the future. For the time being, let us take a quick look at the companies who are leading the race for AI.
DeepMind – According to a business insider report, DeepMind is steadily inching closer to a system, so powerful and fascinating, that it can mimic human-level AI. DeepMind has been singled out by Nick Bostrom (a leading voice on AI) for being the world leaders in the realm of AI. One of DeepMind’s geniuses, the AlphaGo has already made some loud noises for defeating the World Champion of Go, an ancient Chinese board game.
DeepMind, which in 2014 was acquired by Google for a record sum of 400 million dollars, is deeply respected in the AI community. Their publications span a myriad of topics from Deep Enforcement Learning to Robotics to transfer learning and others. DeepMind is now keen to apply its AI in other areas like healthcare and energy management.
Google – How could you even expect another name? No matter what, these two Alphabet companies are ruling the roost, when it comes to AI. Google has established itself as the most ardent acquirer of, AI start-ups since 2012. In 2013, Google acquired DNNsearch, in 2014 it got DeepMind. Last year, it got its hands on Moodstock, a visual start search start-up and Api.ai, a bot platform. And, Halli Labs, an India based company, is the latest feather added to Google’s AI start-up acquisition cap.
Google Brain, as the name suggests is a deep learning AI research project powered by Google. The mission of Google Brain is simple: to improve the quality of human life by making machines smarter. This year, Google Brain had 20 accepted papers (along with 4 selected for oral) at the International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR).
Facebook – FAIR, an AI Research initiative by Facebook was only a little behind Google Brains in the ICLR, 2017 with 16 accepted publications (with 3 selected for orals). That is proof enough to show that Facebook is not too far behind in the AI race, after Google and DeepMind. Also, Facebook was in news earlier this year, courtesy of its curious little chatbots who decided to build their own language to communicate with each other.
While that raises an eye or two on the future of AI, this also shows the amount of research work going on with this social networking company. Though a late comer in comparison to Google, Facebook is striving real hard to pump up its performance in the AI race. Resources have been known to whisper that Facebook has tripled investments in doling out power for research, though an accurate sum has not been disclosed. This company is up for the long haul in the AI race and will most likely not disappoint us in the future.
Open AI – When it comes to potential, this one is capable of swimming with the sharks, make it quite comparable with DeepMind, the AI company that steadfastly ranks first. It is in terms of resources and investments that Open AI is lagging behind. Also, it has not shaken up the world with something as impactful as AlphaGo but Gym and Universe (really thoughtful research tools by Open AI) has surely opened up new vistas for the research community by providing software that were previously locked inside the cupboards of giant tech companies. We champion the cause of Open AI, for we know that for a non-profit earning start-up building itself from the scratch with limited resources, it must have been hard to make its mark.
Baidu – The competition here is no longer just company vs. company, it’s nation vs. nation. If the United States have been taking the lead in the AI race, could China be left far behind? China accounts for 731 million people who are online (that is twice the entire population of the States). It shall suffice to say that China has a structural advantage over the States. When asked about their AI strategy, the CEO of Baidu talked about building ecosystems to enable their partners to better accelerate their stride towards innovation. Baidu has 60 different AI services in their suite which they term as Baidu Brains (just so you know, it’s a platform much larger than what Google has to offer in the United States).
Apple – How come no one missed Siri so far? It’s impossible to forget such a darling, when talking about AI. Yes, Siri has been phenomenal but that is not to say that Apple is on par with Google and DeepMind in the race for AI. Now, isn’t that a little strange for a tech giant sitting over billions of dollars? Well, such is the case.
In 2014, when Google acquired DeepMind for $400 million where as Apple went on to shell out some $3 billion to acquire Beats Music, it had seemed for the time being that Apple had let slip the of a technological revolution that was happening right under its nose. The company seems to be out there remedying the fact right now even as we speak. Who knows what’s in store for us over the years but it will definitely be something to look forward to.
So, now that we have come to the far end of our list, let’s do a final review, you know, just to make sure that we are not missing out something important. Wait, one second! Have you spotted it already? The name Microsoft is nowhere to be found. Isn’t that a bit strange? It is for us as well. But the fact of the matter is that, after taking the big hit from one of its competitor (AlphaGo by DeepMind), Microsoft has been reported to lash out (subtly), saying their AI is not meant to beat humans but make their lives easier by leveraging technology to segregate colossal data. Though it did not make it to our list of big shots in AI this time, we will still like to keep an eye out for it and so should you.