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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 11 tech giants that are investing in artificial intelligence.
NVIDIA and Nuance announced a partnership this week aiming to bring artificial intelligence into healthcare.
The partnership joins NVIDIA’s deep learning platform and Nuance’s PowerScribe radiology reporting and PowerShare image exchange network - which 70 percent of US radiologist use - to create an AI Marketplace for Diagnostic Imaging.
This AI-powered imaging service will provide medical professionals with new tools for analysing x-rays and other images used in radiology.
Essentially, AI developers can share models they have trained via Nuance’s PowerShare network, and other medical professionals can subscribe. Once subscribed, the AI algorithm will be applied in relevant circumstances, as and when.
In 2014, Google bought artificial intelligence startup DeepMind for a whopping $400 million (£263 million) to complete one of the largest AI acquisitions to date.
DeepMind has since been used to find the quickest route between underground stations, defeat champion players of the board game 'Go', and to improve healthcare through a series of controversial agreements with the NHS.
Google has also made its machine learning system TensorFlow free to anyone who wants it, and in July 2017 it launched a new project to study and redesign the ways people interact with AI systems called People + AI Research initiative (PAIR).
Spotify has been snapping up AI-focused startups recently, with the aim to improve its content recommendations and targetted advertisements.
The music streaming firm acquired MightyTV in March 2017, a startup that used artificial intelligence and Tinder-like swiping controls for content recommendations.
More recently, it bought Niland, a Paris-based machine learning startup. This acquisition should help bring custom recommendations that can identify the preferred aspects of music and find similar content for Spotify users.
In December 2016, Microsoft Ventures launched a new fund for AI startups.
Microsoft Ventures, initially founded in January 2016, 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. This fund found the first backer for Element AI, a Montreal-based AI incubator.
Since then, Microsoft Ventures has co-led funding of two artificial intelligence startups, Agolo and Bonsai. Angolo uses AI to create summaries of information, in real-time, while Bonsai enables the automated management of machine learning algorithms.
Prior to this, Microsoft launched project Oxford, in 2015, which aims to understand its users with face, emotion and speech application program interfaces (APIs).
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.
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.
In early 2016, 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.
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.
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.
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?'
While not a traditional 'tech' company, Shell is set to launch a virtual assistant to answer online customers questions around the clock.