What’s happened in AI: September 2017

By | October 9, 2017

I’ve compiled a list of developments in AI from last month. List is by no means all inclusive, so if I missed anything feel free to let me know.


  • IBM partnership with MIT (9/7/17)
    • Partnership includes a $240mm investment in the “future of artificial intelligence” from IBM over a 10 year period
  • Lyft and Drive.AI (9/7/17)
    • Drive.AI will be operating some of Lyft’s test fleet for autonomous vehicles in the Bay Area
  • Nvidia and Avistas (9/7/17)
    • Automated inspection company Avitas Systems, which is a GE Venture company, is using Nvidia’s DGX-1 and DGX Station to train its neural-network-based artificial intelligence to be able to quickly and consistently identify defects in industrial equipment
  • Facebook opening its first Canadian AI lab in Montreal (9/15/17)
    • Facebook will invest over $5.7mm in Montreal’s AI scene
    • Joelle Pineau, a professor at the McGill School of Computer Science, will head the new lab, FAIR Montreal, which will start with 10 researchers and aims to grow to more than 30 researchers in the coming year
  • BlackBerry Self-Driving Car Partnership With Delphi (9/20/17)
    • BlackBerry’s QNX unit, a supplier of infotainment software to major automakers including Ford Motor Co., will collaborate with Delphi on a system that improves software performance and enhances safety in autonomous cars, the two companies said Wednesday. Delphi is developing an affordable self-driving system with Intel Corp. and its Mobileye unit that it will begin selling to carmakers in two years
  • Nvidia partnership with Alibaba (9/25/17)
    • Nvidia’s smart AI cities platform, Metropolis, has picked up two new partners in Alibaba and Huawei.
    • Nvidia’s also announcing that it’s including its DeepStream software development kit in the generally available version of Metropolis

Fundraising and investment;

  • Prowler IO labs raised $13mm (9/4/17)
    • Prowler.io is a research led, Cambridge based startup focusing on behavioural learning and simulation in virtual environments
    • Co-founded by two alums from another AI company, VocalIQ, which was acquired by Apple 13 months after launch
  • U.K based FiveAI gets $35mm (9/5/17)
    • Cambridge based FiveAI, a partner in the U.K.’s StreetWise self-driving project, has raised £14 million ($18 million) and £12.8 million ($17 million) in two tranches to fill out its plans for a two-part business in the world of self-driving services
    • First, FiveAI is building its own autonomous driving system; and second, FiveAI will use that AI-based platform to take on Uber and other transportation services with a fleet of self-driving taxis
  • Samsung creates $300 million fund and new business unit for autonomous driving tech (9/14/17)
    • The new Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund will invest in connected car and autonomous driving technologies covering artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision, smart sensors, safety features, cybersecurity, and more
    • The fund’s first investment will be in Austria’s TTTech, a company specializing in safety, networking, and software integration for ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) and automated driving platforms. Samsung revealed it will invest €75 million ($89 million) in the company
  • Salesforce to launch $50mm AI investment fund (9/19/17)
    • Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has been increasing its use of AI since launching its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features
  • TalkIQ raises $14 million Series A (9/19/17)
    • TalkIQ is bringing automatic speech recognition and natural language processing to previously unsearchable sales calls. With a focus on voice communication, the company provides near real-time insights into conversations as they happen.
    • The platform can transcribe and flag key events in a conversation while retrieving battle cards on competitors when they get mentioned. TalkIQ also captures higher-level analytics that managers can use to get a view of what is working (or not) for sales teams
  • iZettle raises $36M from Europe (9/19/17)
    • iZettle is not specifying exactly how it will be using the funds, or what products it would like to see coming out of it, but for now the company has singled out four general areas where it will be using it: developing next-generation payments infrastructure; insights and actions through machine learning and artificial intelligence; digitalization of commerce processes and scaling legislative and compliance systems
  • Baidu announcing $1.5bn fund focused on autonomous driving tech companies (9/21/17)
    • The “Apollo Fund” will invest in 100 autonomous driving projects over the next three years, Baidu said in a statement
    • The fund’s launch coincides with the release of Apollo 1.5, the second generation of the company’s open-source autonomous vehicle software
  • Analytics 4 life raises $25mm (9/27/17)
    • Unique financing event was supported by an international syndicate of accredited investors, including physicians, healthcare professionals, and medical device experts. The Company’s novel cardiac imaging technology is under clinical investigation to help physicians assess the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD) using intrinsic signals scanned from the body without radiation, contrast agents, or cardiac stress.


  • Cloudera acquires AI research startup Fast Forward Labs (9/7/17)
    • Fast Forward Labs is a company that specializes in consulting with larger enterprises about emerging trends in machine learning that can help their businesses grow. Cloudera specializes in operating on top of open-source technology, looking to deliver an enterprise-grade product for larger organizations
  • Hub spot acquires motion AI (9/20/17)
    • Motion AI is one of the top visual chatbot builders. The company originally launched on Product Hunt in November 2015, where it was voted the number one chatbot builder. Motion AI has facilitated more than 40 million total messages since May 2016, with over 80,000 bots built to date

Policy and Regulations

  • Department of Transportation release new self-driving vehicle guidelines (9/12/17)
    • New guidelines are designed to unify development of automation features, including full autonomy and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and to help unify industry, local, state and federal government efforts to that end
    • It’s voluntary guidance, but focuses on SAE Levels 3 through 5 automation, and it clarifies that companies don’t need to wait to begin testing and deploying their automated driving systems, and streamlines the self-assessment process for companies and organizations

Company highlights/other developments:

  • AI can determine a person’s sexuality based on photos (9/7/17)
    • System was designed by Stanford researchers and highlighted in detail through a recent paper (in development)
    • The paper, due to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, details a rather ordinary supervised-learning approach to addressing the possibility of identifying people as gay or straight from their faces alone
  • Autonomous Audi: Aicon self-driving concept car revealed (9/12/17)
    • Audi introduced its Aicon (Artificial Intelligence Concept) at the Frankfurt motor show
  • Rolls-Royce reveals self-piloted navy ship powered by artificial intelligence (9/12/17)
    • Rolls-Royce plans to make a self-piloting navy ship, powered by artificial intelligence, sophisticated sensors and advanced propulsion, for sale to military forces around the world
    • With range of 3,500 nautical miles, the 60-meter-long vessel would be able to operate on its own without human intervention for more than 100 days
  • Udacity launches a flying car online course (9/19/17)
  • AI algorithm developed to detect Alzheimer’s disease (9/22/17)
    • At the University of Bari in Italy, a team of researchers has developed an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to diagnose early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The team trained the AI with MRI scans of 67 different brains, 38 of which were patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and 29 that were healthy. After the training, the algorithm accurately picked out other cases of Alzheimer’s 86% of the time