Off late, Artificial Intelligence has become the talk of the town with major MNC’s investing in AI specialised companies to drive in the next wave of innovation. Before we delve deep into understanding the industry trends in AI let us first understand what AI stands for. Artificial Intelligence is the ability of machines to emulate human intelligence thereby helping computers or machines function in an intelligent manner.
Big wigs like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Uber are only a few names that have got onto the AI bandwagon, investing heavily on improving inhouse capabilities or acquiring firms that have shown promise in the domain.
Unlike other technologies that have had a smooth ride towards unprecedented success, right from inception, AI has faced a bumpy ride after being formally introduced in 1956 at a conference in Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. This was the conference where ‘Artificial Intelligence’ as a term and field, came into existence.
After the formal founding of the field in 1956, AI faced opposition, lack of interest and decreased funding causing a stagnation in the field. This period of stagnation which commenced from 1974 running up till 1980 came to be known as ‘AI Winter’. The AI industry got a fillip in 1980 when the British government renewed its interest in the field looking at the progress Japanese had made in the field, but this again did not last long to benefit AI as the second ‘AI Winter’ set in from 1987 to 1993.
In 1997 tech giant IBM introduced its AI powered computer Deep Blue, credited to be the first computer that beat Grand Master, Garry Kasparov in a game of chess. This was followed by another AI powered computer called Watson which won the quiz show called, Jeopardy, beating the reigning champions, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Ever since, Deep Blue and Watson proved their competence, the AI industry has experienced a long stint of spring with renewed interest in the technology leading to uninterrupted funding and growth.
In the period starting 2014, Google, specialising in internet-based services and products made a noteworthy investment of $400 million to buy out DeepMind an artificial intelligence start-up. The investments stand out as the largest investment in the AI arena. Adding to its acquisition Google very recently announced setting up of a first of its kind research facility for AI in China.
Investment made by Google was followed by investments made by other well-known multinationals.
2015/16: Microsoft launched ‘Project Oxford’ aimed at understanding its users through face, emotion and speech application program interfaces. This was followed up with the setting up of a venture fund to encourage AI start-ups. The first to benefit was a Montreal based AI start-up, ElementAI followed by two others namely Agolo and Bonsai. In the latest news coming from Microsoft, it pledged $50 million towards its AI program christened ‘AI for Earth’.
2016: Uber acquired Geometric Intelligence cofounded by noted scientist working in the domain of machine learning. The Geometric Intelligence team is expected to sit out of a new dedicated AI facility at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco.
2015/16: Apple, world’s largest IT company by revenue acquired UK based AI company Vocal IQ in October 2015, followed by another acquisition in early January 2016, buying out Emotient.
Artificial intelligence as a technology is making inroads into all walks of life. Product manufacturers are trying to bring in new features ably complimented by artificial intelligence to make their products easy to use and interactive. Siri on Apple or Cortana on Microsoft are AI enabled voice assists that aim to make use of IT products that much more convenient. Same can be said about the keyboard on mobile phones which is accessed an approximate 60 times a day by the user. Keyboard is the only application after OS that gets triggered with every mobile session. 90% of the time, people use keyboard to interact with all other apps. Add to the mentioned utilities of the keyboard the prowess of AI and you have an intuitive keyboard called Xploree AI Keyboard. Xploree uses AI to provide you intent based solutions that look to solve the need of the moment. Multiple other features such as capability to type in 140 plus languages, predictive emojis or conversing in a mix of languages make Xploree AI Keyboard, a must have keyboard app for any android user. While inventions in AI are taking place at an unprecedented pace, an AI powered keyboard can be the first step to experiencing a world that may soon be powered by AI.
With major multinationals showing keen interest in developing the field of Artificial Intelligence it seems the long-gone AI Winter will be kept at bay for a long time to come whilst the renewed interest in the industry keeping in line with the impact it will have on different industries, will keep the blooming, shiny AI spring, last for some time to come.