Efforts to develop machine super-intelligence or full-blown AI generated headlines earlier this year when a number of prominent entrepreneurs and scientists came out publicly to urge caution with the endeavour.
Included in the list of signatories to an open letter on the matter published by the Future Life Institute, were such notables as Elon Musk, Professor Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. The letter contained a plea to the AI science community to take the utmost care with their work and ensure that all possible safety measures were taken to avoid negative impacts for humanity. Elon Musk has recently pledged $10 million to the Future Life Institute to fund research into possible negative implications of AI development. Professor Hawking went so far to state publicly that:
“The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful.
But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the
human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence it would take off on its own
and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow
biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
Whilst some of the biggest advances in AI are being developed inside tech giants such as Google and IBM, it has also proven to be fertile grounds for startups. Since 2010 there have been 310 AI companies seek startup capital via Angel List. Here are two startups working in the key areas of Machine Learning and Voice Recognition to develop the underlying technology necessary to make AI a reality:
Scaled Inference (Machine Learning)
Founded last year by two former Google employees (Olcan Sercinoglu and Dmitry Lepikhin), Scaled Inference is working hard to facilitate the next generation of intelligent software, which it imagines will be built by the masses and powered by a cloud-based shared platform. It recently raised $13.6 million to build the software, giving the company a valuation of approximately $60 million. Khosla Ventures is a significant backer. Whilst its machine learning as a cloud service is not expected to be market ready until 2016, Scaled Inference is already working with private sector firms to discuss CEO’s real world problems and access the data necessary to solve them, providing ongoing validation for their approach.
Expect Labs (Voice Recognition and Activation)
Home of the MindMeld Developer Centre, Expect Labs was founded in 2011 and develops technology that assists businesses to provide intelligent voice-based interfaces for existing applications. Recent AI breakthroughs have made human-quality speech recognition a reality. Late last year investors tipped a further $13 million into Expect Labs to fund ongoing development.
The MindMeld technology can enable consumers to use voice command to:
- Discover on-demand videos without lifting a finger
- Search online catalogs
- Discover restaurants, cafes etc whilst driving…hands free
- Interact with wearables and connected home devices
Nowadays, with basic speech recognition software already built in to every mobile OS and browser, voice interface development is proving to be fertile ground.
There is no shortage of investment capital flowing into the AI sector, with names like Google Ventures, Intel, Khosla Ventures, Tencent and Andreessen Horowitz all figuring prominently. This will no doubt be one of the hottest industries to watch in the next few years.