What’s happened in AI: October 17-24

By | October 25, 2017

Highlights this week include two major developments from Google, the emergence of Primer from stealth mode and the acquisition of nuTonomy by Delphi for $450mm.

On the cultural side of AI, we’ve received news regarding plans for a Black AI workshop in December and another AI chatbot expressing offensive remarks. Personally, these are two examples of why I believe studying the prejudices and biases in datasets is so essential.

Company highlights/other

  • Google
    • Google opens AVA dataset to help machines identify human actions in videos
      • By allowing anyone to access the dataset, Google is hoping to improve machines’ “social visual intelligence” so they can understand what humans are doing and anticipate what they may do next.
      • “Teaching machines to understand human actions in videos is a fundamental research problem in Computer Vision, essential to applications such as personal video search and discovery, sports analysis, and gesture interfaces,” explained Google software engineers Chunhui Gu and David Ross, in a blog post.”
    • Google unveils AI that can learn on its own
      • Google’s artificial intelligence group, DeepMind, has unveiled the latest incarnation of its Go-playing program, AlphaGo – an AI so powerful that it derived thousands of years of human knowledge of the game before inventing better moves of its own, all in the space of three days
  • Amazon backs German artificial intelligence research hub
    • Will open an artificial intelligence research center in the German university city of Tuebingen, creating 100 jobs over the next five years
    • The research center will be located adjacent to the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and draw on the expertise of two of its experts, Prof. Bernhard Schoelkopf and Prof. Michael J. Black
  • The Partnership on AI announces Executive Director Terah Lyons and welcomes new partners
    • Terah joins us from the Mozilla Foundation, where she was most recently a Technology Policy Fellow. Prior to that she served as Policy Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
    • While at the White House, Terah co-directed the White House Future of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, which engaged industry, the academic and technical community, civil society, and international stakeholders to formulate recommendations for a domestic policy strategy on machine intelligence
  • Primer uses AI to understand and summarize mountains of text
    • A startup emerging out of stealth today wants to help companies understand massive stores of text data using AI. The company is called Primer, and it uses machine learning techniques to help parse and collate a large number of documents across several languages in order to facilitate further investigation
    • In addition to the product news, Primer revealed that it has raised $14.7 million in two rounds of funding. Data Collective (DCVC) led the company’s series A, and Primer has also received funding from In-Q-Tel (also contracted with) Lux Capital, Amplify Partners, and others.
  • LinkedIn boosts its messaging with smart replies, pre-written, AI based interactions
    • The site is unveiling a new smart reply feature in its messaging app, which gives users prompts with different phrases to use while they are chatting to keep the conversation flowing
    • LinkedIn itself has been trying out a version of suggested replies since January of this year, and was actually already talking about its plans on this front months before that. The key difference in today’s news is that the company is now using more AI tools like machine learning and more sophisticated natural language processing to be able to understand the gist of a conversation and how to help keep it going
  • Alice AI offensive rant
    • Yandex, Russia’s homegrown Google rival revealed its AI assistant named Alice
    • Screengrabs of some of the unsavory opinions that Yandex’s Alice AI expressed include pro-Stalin views; support for wife-beating, child abuse and suicide, to name a few
    • Yandex issued a statement apologizing for all of Alice’s offensive remarks


  • Microsoft and Amazon Have Partnered to Bring AI to the Masses
    • On Thursday, they unveiled a new open-source deep-learning interface called Gluon. Essentially a deep-learning library, Gluon is designed to bring together the two most important components of a deep-learning system: training algorithms and neural network models
    • With Gluon, even developers who don’t specialize in AI can build and run machine learning models for their apps and services
  • Facebook and Intel Are Joining Forces For Artificial Intelligence
    • Intel and Facebook are working together on Nervana, Intel’s newest processor designed for AI and deep learning. The chip is an integral part of multiple projects that are expected to help Intel achieving 100 times better AI performance by 2020
    • When it comes to deep learning, existing computers must use a lot of processing power to handle the amount of data used during the teaching phase. Nervana, however, is meant to take shortcuts that can reduce the amount of processing power required, enabling it to perform calculations


  • CBI calls for special commission to look at the impact of AI on UK businesses
    • Found that only a third of businesses currently have the skills and capabilities needed to adopt AI technologies, and that more needs to be done to help prepare those companies for the future
    • The aim of the commission, the CBI said, would be to examine the impact of AI on people and jobs, and to subsequently set out plans for action that will “raise productivity, spread prosperity and open up new paths to economic growth”.


  • Black AI Workshop in December
    • Recent news reveals plans for a workshop to take place in December to highlight AI research by black scientists
    • Will be part of the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, one of the top gatherings for scientists working on AI.
    • While the organizers invited people of all races to attend the workshop, they said only black researchers would be allowed to present papers
  • Venturebeat Summit took place on October 23-24
    • Featured speakers include Jeff Dean (Senior Fellow at Google), Jeremy King (EVP & CTO at Walmart) and Li Fan (Head of Engineering at Pinterest)
  • AI Expo North America Nov 29-30
    • Recent news reveals the AI Conference & Exhibition is taking place on November 29-30 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. It will showcase the next generation technologies and strategies from the world of Artificial Intelligence, providing an opportunity to explore and discover the practical and successful implementation of AI to drive your business forward in 2017 and beyond.


  • Delphi to acquire nuTonomy for $450mm
    • While other self-driving software startups like Cruise, Argo AI and others have opted to sell to an automaker, nuTonomy is one of the first software startups to tie up with an automotive supplier. That means nuTonomy will be a self-driving software supplier to the industry in a way Cruise and Argo, at least initially, are not.
    • For Delphi, the acquisition gives the supplier a competitive edge in the industry. Vertically integrating as many parts of the self-driving stack as possible makes Delphi a more appealing partner or supplier for automakers


  • Samsung invests in Chinese AI chipset start-up DeePhi Tech
    • Part of its efforts to catch up in the intensifying global race for AI platforms and devices, according to sources Sunday (Oct 22)
    • DeePhi Tech offers the Deep Neural Network Development Kit, known as DNNDK, which is a deep learning software development kit designed as an integrated framework that aims to simplify and accelerate deep learning applications
  • Derq aims to make cars smarter and raised $1.5mm seed
    • Recently graduated from Techstars. The company sees its product integrating into existing and future vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communication. Derq has developed and patented an application layer that sits between these communication layers and aims to predict incidents such as crashes and then notifies nearby drivers — something that will gain even more relevance as more autonomous vehicles hit the road
    • The project was spun out of MIT where the founder and CEO Georges Aoude earned a Ph.D in aerospace engineering in 2011. The company is based in Dubai and plans to soon open its first office in the US in downtown Detroit and seek partnerships with auto makers
  • Blickfeld raises $4.25mm
    • Blickfeld, a Munich-based startup developing a low-cost light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system to let autonomous vehicles “see,” has raised $4.25 million in seed funding. The round was led by Fluxunit (the corporate venture arm of lighting company Osram), High-Tech Gründerfonds, Tengelmann Ventures, and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners
    • Where Blickfeld says it is different to other companies offering LiDAR tech is that its system is based on commercial off-the-shelf components and silicon, and therefore can be mass-manufactured at low cost whilst still meeting high automotive performance requirement
  • Wibbitz Raises $20M, Ups AI Capacities For Publishers
    • The platform uses AI to automatically transform text stories into short videos, with a range of media, text overlays, custom-branded graphics and soundtrack options. Its clients include the Associated Press, The Weather Channel, Bloomberg and Evolve Media
    • The funding round was led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, with participation from The Weather Channel television network, the Associated Press, TF1 Group, and existing investors NantMobile, lool Ventures and Horizons Ventures.