What’s happened in AI: October 9-16

By | October 17, 2017

Lots of great activity this week. Notable developments include Alibaba’s reveal of its massive research arm, the UAE’s Centennial 2070 objectives and Marvelstone Group’s plans for the largest AI hub in the world to be built in Singapore.

Company highlights/other

  • Facebook launches two datasets to improve AI video analysis
    • The Scenes, Objects, and Actions dataset (SOA) will provide developers with a massive set of videos that contain multiple labels indicating what’s going on inside them
    • Each video has been tagged by humans trained to attach multiple labels that reflect where a video is taking place, what is in it, and what is going on in the scene. Those labels can then be used to train AI systems
  • Alibaba launches research arm for AI, quantum computing, and other emerging tech
    • It’s called the Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook (or the DAMO Academy), and Alibaba plans to recruit 100 researchers to staff its labs around the globe.
    • Over the next three years, the company plans to spend $15 billion on research and development, a significant increase over its current rate of spending
  • Nvidia’s new Pegasus AI computer is designed to drive autonomous taxis
    • The Drive PX Pegasus builds on its predecessor the Drive PX 2, offering over 10 times as many operations per second in terms of computing capability, and it’s already being used by over 25 companies to develop fully driverless taxi vehicles for eventual deployment
    • Packs in four AI processors, including two of Nvidia’s latest generation Xavier system-on-a-chip models with embedded Nvidia Volta GPUs, with two next-generation discrete GPUs designed specifically to help accelerate deep learning and computer vision
  • UAE looks to artificial intelligence strategy to prepare for the future
    • Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, also the Ruler of Dubai, announced the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, a major initiative within the UAE Centennial 2070 objectives, state news agency Wam reported
    • The UAE seeks to be a major hub for developing AI techniques and associated legislation, he said, adding that “our 2071 Strategy is founded on a set of fundamentals, primarily Artificial Intelligence across all our government and private sectors
  • Singapore will soon house the world’s biggest AI hub
    • Marvelstone Group plans to use the AI hub, to be located in Singapore’s central business district, to incubate AI startups, develop AI-related intellectual property, grow ideas and organise community events
    • “There is a clear need for a big playground for startups, entrepreneurs and even corporates in the field of AI,” said Joel Ko, president of Marvelstone Group. “Considering the high interest and demand for AI globally, there are still relatively few places to test these new technologies. Our goal is to build 100 AI startups a year and attract global AI talent to Singapore to incubate their own applications and collaborate with our local teams.”


  • Alibaba will partner with the University of California, Berkeley’s Real-Time Intelligent Secure Execution lab (RISELab)
    • Partnership centered on UC Berkeley’s research into secure computing
  • Microsoft Ventures, Madrona and others launch $3.5M AI startup competition
    • The Innovate.AI competition will award $1M in funding to one startup per region (North America, Europe and Israel), in addition to a $500,000 “AI for Good” prize. All prizes also come with $500,000 in Azure credits (though there is no expectation that the participating startups use Azure)
    • Like with similar competitions, Microsoft and its partners will gather applications from eligible startups, judge them based on the potential of their ideas and execution, and then pitch them against each other in a Battlefield-like pitch-off early next year (though Madrona managing director S. “Soma” Somasegar describes it as more akin to “American Idol”). To be eligible, the startups can’t have raised more than $4 million in funding and they obviously need to be working on some kind of AI/ML-related problem


  • ROSS Intelligence lands $8.7M Series A to speed up legal research with AI
    • Fundraising round led by iNovia Capital with participation from Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, Real Ventures, Dentons’ NextLaw Labs and angels
    • ROSS is using a combination of off the shelf and proprietary deep learning algorithms for its AI stack. The startup is using IBM Watson for at least some of its natural language processing capabilities, but the team shied away from elaborating
  • MioTech gets $7M to build artificial intelligence based tools for wealth managers in Asia
    • Round was led by Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Hong Kong business tycoon Li Ka-shing, with participation from returning investor Zhenfund
    • MioTech’s graph database is designed to help large financial services firms store and process terabytes of data. Its analytics engine helps investment managers combine data from a variety of sources, including market prices, news events and micro- and macroeconomic activity, and get insights to help them manage their portfolios
  • NumberAI raises $1.6M to make business landline numbers smarter
    • The company launched to build a system that allows small businesses to connect their landline numbers digitally and interact with them in a lot of the same ways consumers expect today
    • “What we’re looking to do is redefine that small business phone number. Whether it’s landline or mobile, we want to make it a more rich experience. Think of it as an AI receptionist. We are going to work with the telecoms as the distribution partner for us”.
  • AI-powered customer marketing platform Ometria raises $6M Series A
    • US-based Summit Action led the round, along with an investment syndicate backed by individuals with roles inside some key retailers
    • Omeria claims marketing platform enables retailers to send individually  personalised marketing messages across several brand touchpoints. Says it is used by over 100 of the largest multi-channel retailers and fast-growing VC-backed ecommerce businesses including Moss Bros, Crew Clothing, Charlotte Tilbury, Feelunique, LoveCrafts, Wonderbly (formerly Lost My Name), and Graze.com.