What’s happened in AI: June 25th-July 1st

By | July 3, 2018

Big week for fundraising and autonomous vehicle related partnerships. Highlights include Kroger’s partnership with Nuro for driverless grocery deliveries, Ford’s partnership with Baidu, Nvidia/Bosch/Volkswagen partnership, and Audi’s partnership with Cognata. It’s becoming obvious that these partnerships are vital to stay competitive in the space.

Meanwhile, both Microsoft and IBM have made progress with eliminating bias in their algorithms. Hopefully other tech companies can continue to do the same.

Finally, there were a ton of great medical related AI developments this past week. Northwestern Hospital in Evanston received $25mm to develop AI expertise for heart disease, China is going forward with a plan for robotic doctors and driverless ambulances, AI beat doctors in China in a neuroimaging recognition contest, and much more.

Oh, and I almost forgot. For all the gamers out there, OpenAI’s Dota 2 program beat a team of humans. This is an impressive feat given the complexity and teamwork associated with the game. Even Bill Gates offered praise to the OpenAI team.

Company developments:

APEX Technologies Ranked as the Top Artificial Intelligence Company by China Internet Weekly – June 30, 2018 (Business Insider)

  • China Internet Weekly, the analytical and editorial entity of China Academy of Sciences (state-backed national scientific think tank and academic governing body) and one of the leading technology publications, on an annual basis publishes a ranking of the top 100 companies in each technology subsector including big data, AI, healthcare technology, and financial technology. The criteria for selection and ranking on these lists include factors such as revenue growth rate, brand reputation, level of innovation, and judge panel scoring
  • The 2018 Top 100 List have just been published for Artificial Intelligence – and large technology conglomerate and emerging AI technology companies have been ranked alike. Some interesting additions to top 20 include Face++, one of the fastest growing machine vision companies, and AI Nemo, which is Baidu’s smart home AI branch and effectively the Amazon Alexa of China. Others in the top 50 include the usual large tech conglomerates including Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, and Huawei
  • The most notable addition to the top 10 is the #1 ranked company on this year’s list, APEX Technologies, a fast growing data technology company focused on AI and blockchain technology. APEX Technologies builds data and artificial intelligence solutions for mid to large size corporation to help with marketing, CRM, customer experience, and data-driven insight – simply put, using AI to increase revenue and the bottom line

Formula 1 selects AWS as Official Cloud and Machine Learning Provider – June 29, 2018 (Formula 1)

  • Formula 1 will work with AWS to enhance its race strategies, data tracking systems, and digital broadcasts through a wide variety of AWS services — including Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed machine learning service that enables everyday developers and scientists to easily build and deploy machine learning models, AWS Lambda, AWS’s pioneering event-driven serverless computing service, and AWS analytics services — to uncover never-before-seen metrics that will change the way fans and teams enjoy, experience, and participate in racing
  • Formula 1 has also selected AWS Elemental Media Services to power its video asset workflows, enhancing the viewing experience for its 500 million plus fans worldwide
  • Using Amazon SageMaker, Formula 1’s data scientists are training deep learning models with more than 65 years of historical race data, stored in both Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Glacier. With this information, Formula 1 can extract critical race performance statistics to make race predictions and give fans insight into the split-second decisions and strategies adopted by teams and drivers

SpaceX launches an A.I. robot, ‘mousetronauts,’ and strong coffee for the International Space Station crew – June 29, 2018 (CNBC)

  • A SpaceX rocket that flew just two months ago with a NASA satellite roared back into action Friday, launching fresh space supplies for the International Space Station
  • Also included is the A.I. robot Cimon, pronounced Simon, intended for German astronaut Alexander Gerst. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the round, 3D-printed German Space Agency robot will assist Gerst with science experiments. IBM provided the A.I. brain. Cimon will remain indefinitely on the orbiting lab, continually getting updated via IBM’s Cloud

Google launches AI-powered content recommendations for G Suite customers – June 28, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • There’s good news for G Suite customers: Google today is injecting a bit of natural language processing (NLP) into Docs, Sheets, and Slides workflows. The Mountain View company announced that it’s expanding Quick Access, a machine learning-powered tool that suggests files relevant to documents you’re editing, to all customers, and that it’s adding NLP to the search function within Google Docs’ editing view
  • “We’re making the Quick Access feature in Google Docs available to more G Suite users and are adding natural language search when you’re looking for documents,” Google wrote in a blog post
  • Quick Access, which was detailed in a blog post earlier this year, lives in Google Docs’ aforementioned right-hand Explore tab and serves up spreadsheets, documents, and presentations related to what you’re writing about. It launched earlier this year for select G Suite customers, but it’s rolling out to all users starting today

Facebook is using machine learning to self-tune its myriad services – June 28, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • The company published a blog post today about a self-tuning system they have dubbed Spiral. This is pretty nifty, and what it does is essentially flip the idea of system tuning on its head. Instead of looking at some data and coding what you want the system to do, you teach the system the right way to do it and it does it for you, using the massive stream of data to continually teach the machine learning models how to push the systems to be ever better
  • In the blog post, the Spiral team described it this way: “Instead of looking at charts and logs produced by the system to verify correct and efficient operation, engineers now express what it means for a system to operate correctly and efficiently in code. Today, rather than specify how to compute correct responses to requests, our engineers encode the means of providing feedback to a self-tuning system.”
  • “Spiral uses machine learning to create data-driven and reactive heuristics for resource-constrained real-time services. The system allows for much faster development and hands-free maintenance of those services, compared with the hand-coded alternative,” the Spiral team wrote in the blog post

Valassis Digital’s chatbot eases the pain of buying a car – June 28, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Livonia, Michigan-based advertising agency Valassis Digital hopes to shake things up a bit. Today, it launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot designed to help buyers find cars without having to spend hours on a lot
  • “We live in an increasingly digital-first world, where consumer convenience reigns supreme,” Mike Balducci, vice president at Valassis, said in a statement. “From auto dealers to grocery stores, brands are constantly innovating to better blend the physical and digital realms and improve the customer experience. Artificial intelligence, like chatbots, is a prime example of this effort. It provides cost-effective solutions that alleviate brand and consumer pain points, drives brick-and-mortar traffic, and bolsters employee functions.”
  • You can’t buy cars through the chatbot, and that feature isn’t coming down the pipeline anytime soon. But the bot can show nearby dealerships and their respective inventories, estimate the trade-in value of a car, and set up test drive and service appointments

Top AI unicorn SenseTime charges beyond China – June 28, 2018 (Nikkei Asian Review)

  • China’s SenseTime, the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup, is eyeing global expansion in Singapore, Japan, and the U.S. The rising tech star just closed a new $620 million round of fundraising as it aims to lead the AI industry by 2030
  • Founded in 2014 and incorporated in Hong Kong, SenseTime has quickly grown to more than 1,700 employees, with most of its operations still centered in China. The AI startup has launched a recruiting process in the U.S., where it intends to establish a new office
  • “We are hiring the most expensive headhunters to recruit top AI engineers worldwide,” a company manager told the Nikkei Asian Review. “We have at least 150 Ph.D.s with us.” The company is also mulling expansion of its existing offices in Singapore and Japan

LiDAR startup Luminar hires former Fitbit and Apple execs – June 28, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • LiDAR company Luminar and its whiz founder Austin Russell burst onto the autonomous vehicle startup scene last April after operating for years in secrecy. Now, Luminar has nabbed two high-profile hires that signal its grander ambitions in the race to develop and deploy autonomous vehicles
  • Luminar announced Thursday it has hired Fitbit executive Bill Zerella as its chief financial officer and Tami Rosen as chief people officer. Both have years of experience in their respective arenas. Zerella was CFO of Fitbit for four years. He has held the CFO position in various other companies, including wireless communications company Vocera and Force10 Networks, and telecom equipment firm Infinera
  • His specialty is helping burgeoning startups scale up in revenue as well as operationally to hit high-volume hardware and software products. He also has helped companies navigate the path to an IPO. During his stint at Fitbit, Zerella led the largest consumer electronics IPO in history

Box adds AI services from Microsoft Azure and IBM Watson – June 27, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Injecting cloud storage with artificial intelligence is easier said than done. Even something as simple as optical character recognition can take ages to get up and running, and businesses more often than not end up juggling multiple service providers — each with their own ecosystem, toolset, and idiosyncrasies — to meet the needs of employees and customers
  • Box aimed to change all that with Box Skills, a suite of apps that add new features and functionality to cloud-hosted files. A few launched last year as part of a private beta program, including an image-processing Skill that uses Google’s Cloud Image API. Today, ahead of its BoxWorks developer summit in San Francisco, Box unveiled a slew of additions to the library from IBM and Microsoft
  • “We want what customers put in Box to have infinitely more value in Box than outside of Box,” Jeetu Patel, chief product officer at Box, told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “When you make available all the advancements that are being made in machine learning, the intelligence that gets added to files improves how people make decisions around content.”

IBM hopes to fight bias in facial recognition with new diverse dataset – June 27, 2018 (The Verge)

  • Bias is a big problem in facial recognition, with studies showing that commercial systems are more accurate if you’re white and male. Part of the reason for this is a lack of diversity in the training data, with people of color appearing less frequently than their peers. IBM is one of the companies trying to combat this problem, and today announced two new public datasets that anyone can use to train facial recognition systems — one of which has been curated specifically to help remove bias
  • The first dataset contains 1 million images and will help train systems that can spot specific attributes, like hair color, eye color, and facial hair. Each face is annotated with these characteristics, making it easier for programmers to hone their systems to better distinguish between, say, a goatee and a soul patch. It’s not the largest public dataset for training facial recognition systems, but IBM says it’s the biggest to include such tags
  • The second dataset is the more interesting one. It’s smaller than the first, containing 36,000 pictures, but the faces within are an equal mix ethnicities, genders, and ages. In the same way that the facial attribute tags help train AI systems to recognize these differences, having a diverse mix of faces should help systems overcome various biases. Both datasets were drawn from pictures posted to Flickr with Creative Commons licenses, which often allow them to be used for research purposes

Microsoft’s facial recognition can better identify people with darker skin tones – June 26, 2018 (The Verge)

  • Microsoft says its facial recognition tools are getting better at identifying people with darker skin tones than before, according to a company blog post today. The error rates have been reduced by as much as 20 times for men and women with darker skin and by nine times for all women
  • The company says it’s been training its AI tools with larger and more diverse datasets, which has led to the progress. “If we are training machine learning systems to mimic decisions made in a biased society, using data generated by that society, then those systems will necessarily reproduce its biases,” said Hanna Wallach, a Microsoft senior researcher, in the blog post

Morgan Stanley Hires Ex-SAC Capital Artificial Intelligence Expert – June 26, 2018 (Bloomberg)

  • Morgan Stanley, which aims to expand its use of artificial intelligence, has hired Michael Kearns to help guide the effort. Kearns is a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and has years of experience at Steve Cohen’s former hedge fund and other Wall Street firms. He will lead Morgan Stanley’s AI research and offer advice on deploying the technology for projects across the company, the New York-based firm said in a memo to employees Tuesday
  • Kearns, 55, has been researching AI since its early days in the 1980s, writing his Harvard Ph.D. dissertation on the complexity of machine learning and working on the technology for a decade at AT&T Bell Labs. Shortly after arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, he took on consulting roles at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and then SAC Capital Advisors in the multi-quant division until 2013
  • Kearns’s expertise includes the branch of AI called reinforcement learning that can be used to improve trading execution and reduce associated costs. While standard machine learning models make predictions on prices, they don’t specify the best time to act, the optimal size of a trade or its impact on the market

Layoffs at Watson Health Reveal IBM’s Problem With AI – June 25, 2018 (IEEE Spectrum)

  • IBM, a venerable tech company on a mission to stay relevant, has staked much of its future on IBM Watson. The company has touted Watson, its flagship artificial intelligence, as the premier product for turning our data-rich but disorganized world into a smart and tidy planet
  • Just last month, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told a convention audience that we’re at an inflection point in history. Putting AI into everything will enable businesses to improve on “an exponential curve,” she said—a phenomenon that might one day be referred to as “Watson’s Law.”
  • The layoffs at the end of May cut a swath through the Watson Health division. According to anonymous accounts submitted to the site Watching IBM, the cuts primarily affect workers from three acquired companies: Phytel, Explorys, and Truven

Chinese facial recognition start-up Megvii makes push into Southeast Asia – June 25, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • Founded by three Tsinghua University graduates in 2011, the company has appointed a distributor in Thailand and is in talks with commercial banks and building managers to deploy its facial recognition software
  • The distributor has also demonstrated the technology of Megvii, also known as Face++, to police departments in Thailand and received good initial feedback, according to representatives at the Techsauce Global Summit in Bangkok
  • In Malaysia, the company is holding exploratory talks with state governments and banks. It is also working on demonstrating the feasibility of its technology – known as proof of concept in industry parlance – to qualify for tenders by airports in the region looking to upgrade their surveillance capabilities, according to the representatives


Ping Identity acquires stealthy API security startup Elastic Beam – June 26, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • At the Identiverse conference in Boston today, Ping Identity announced that it has acquired Elastic Beam, a pre-Series A startup that uses artificial intelligence to monitor APIs and help understand when they have been compromised
  • Ping also announced a new product, PingIntelligence for APIs, based on the Elastic Beam technology. They did not disclose the sale price. The product itself is a pretty nifty piece of technology. It automatically detects all the API IP addresses and URLs running inside a customer. It then uses artificial intelligence to search for anomalous behavior and report back when it finds it (or it can automatically shut down access depending on how it’s configured)
  • With this purchase, Ping has not only acquired some advanced technology, it has also acqui-hired a team of AI and machine learning experts that could help inject the entire Ping product line with AI and machine learning smarts. “Nobody should be surprised who has been watching that Ping will drive machine learning AI and general intelligence into our identity platform,” Durand said


Kroger to test grocery deliveries with driverless cars – June 30, 2018 (Indian Retailer)

  • Cincinnati-based Kroger is teaming up with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded two years ago by two engineers who worked on self-driving cars at Google. That Google project is now known as Waymo, which plans to introduce a ride-hailing service that is supposed to begin picking up passengers in fully autonomous cars by the end of this year
  • Kroger is only saying its self-driving delivery service will start by the end of this year, like Waymo which also claimed robotic delivery anytime this year
  • Much like people summon an Uber or Lyft ride, customers will be able to order groceries using a mobile app. After the order is placed, a driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries at a curb, requiring the customers to be present to fetch the items. The vehicles will probably be opened with a numeric code

Ford, Baidu Team Up for AI & Connectivity Solutions in China – June 28, 2018 (Nasdaq)

  • Ford Motor Company F announced that it has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Baidu, Inc. BIDU to co-develop artificial intelligence (AI) and connectivity solutions for Ford’s vehicles in China. Baidu offers a Chinese Internet searching platform
  • By combining Baidu’s innovative AI technology and Ford’s engineering expertise, the team aspires to transform the mobility system and produce the next-generation in-vehicle experience for consumers in China
  • Based on Baidu’s DuerOS conversational AI platform, Ford will develop in-vehicle infotainment systems and digital services. The DuerOS platform has features to recognize voice and image, enabling vehicle owners to control and communicate with their cars in their native language, without any difficulty to access information and services

Volkswagen, Bosch, and Nvidia team up to bring autonomous cars one step closer – June 27, 2018 (Digital Trends)

  • The efforts required to bring autonomous cars to the masses are so immense that car and technology companies can’t do it alone. The Volkswagen Group of America and major players in the automotive innovation industry like Bosch and Nvidia have joined forces to pool their resources and expertise in a bid to accelerate the development of driver-less technology
  • The newly formed Networking for Autonomous Vehicles (NAV) Alliance was created to drive the ecosystem required for the next generation of multi-gig Ethernet networking in vehicles, according to its mission statement. Its aim isn’t to develop the core technology required for cars to drive themselves; instead, it wants to improve and secure the thought process autonomous cars follow to gather, analyze, and store information about the world around them
  • The NAV Alliance envisions a robust networking architecture reliant on ECUs, CPUs, GPUs, high-definition cameras, sensors, gateways, and storage devices connected through a high-speed Ethernet network. This architecture will, for example, safely and reliably transfer data from a sensor integrated into the car’s grille to its onboard computer, or from the onboard computer to a vehicle traveling in the other lane

Audi partners with Israel’s autonomous vehicle simulation startup Cognata – June 26, 2018 (Reuters)

  • German carmaker Audi AG (NSUG.DE) has partnered with autonomous vehicle simulation platform provider Cognata Ltd to speed up the development of autonomous vehicles, the Israel-based startup said on Tuesday
  • Cognata said its simulation platform virtually recreates real-world cities, provides a range of testing scenarios, including traffic models that simulate realistic conditions, prior to physical roadway tests of autonomous vehicles
  • Audi, through its self driving car unit Autonomous Intelligent Driving GmbH (AID), is the first major carmaker to sign a multi-year partnership on Cognata’s platform, which will help it reduce the time to get its autonomous cars to market

AI Guardsman uses computer vision to spot shoplifters – June 26, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Japanese telecom company NTT East teamed up with tech startup Earth Eyes to create AI Guardsman, a machine learning system that attempts to catch crooks in the act. Relying on open source technology developed by Carnegie Mellon University, it scans live video streams from cameras in convenience stores and supermarkets, tracking every customer inside. When it detects suspicious activity — for example, when a would-be thief starts looking for blind spots or begins nervously checking their surroundings — the system sends an alert to a store clerk’s smartphone with the person’s mugshot and location
  • Distinguishing between thieves and indecisive shoppers isn’t easy, though, and NTT East makes no claims that its algorithm is perfect. It sometimes flags well-meaning customers who pick up and put back items and salesclerks restocking store shelves, a spokesperson for the company told The Verge
  • But the telecom claims that AI Guardsman learns from its mistakes over time. In the companion smartphone app, clerks log whether or not they confronted suspects detected by the system, and the results are used to filter out false positives

Fundraising / investment:

JASK nets $25M from Kleiner to build out autonomous security operations – June 28, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • The startup offers an autonomous security operations platform to respond to this new security environment, and it’s a mission that is finding resonance among investors. After raising a $12 million Series A round led by Dell Technologies Capital last year, the company has now received a $25 million Series B from Ted Schlein of Kleiner Perkins, bringing the company’s total funding to $39 million, including its seed. Schlein will join the board of directors
  • Schlein is a distinguished security investor, having invested in such noted security exits as Mandiant, LifeLock and CarbonBlack. He also was the first investor in ArcSight, where JASK founders Greg Martin and Damian Miller led the security operations practice. Schlein also is an investor in stealthy security startup Endgame Inc., as well as enterprise analytics startup Segment
  • A few weeks ago, the company announced further visualization tools to help security analysts understand their threat environment. Last month, it brought on Greg Fitzgerald as chief marketing officer. Fitzgerald previously served as CMO of security high-flyer Cylance, as well as SVP of marketing at Fortinet and Sourcefire (acquired by Cisco). It has also announced a massive expansion of its second headquarters in Austin, where it expects to grow to 100 people this year

Cerebri AI raises $5M Series A round led by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund – June 28, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • M12, Microsoft’s venture fund which was previously known as Microsoft Ventures, has been making a series of investments in the last few weeks. Today, it’s leading a $5 million Series A round into Cerebri AI, a startup that uses machine learning to help companies track, analyze and predict their customers’ behavior
  • The University of Texas Horizon Fund, WorldQuant Ventures and Leawood Venture Capital also participated in this round for the Austin-based startup, which brings Cerebri’s total funding to date to $10 million. The company plans to use the fresh cash to expand its operations
  • Microsoft’s involvement here is maybe no major surprise, given the company’s interest in machine learning and that the Cerebri platform sits on top of Microsoft Azure

Ceres Imaging gets $25M to intelligently scan crops from above – June 28, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Agtech startup Ceres Imaging, which uses computer vision and spectral imaging tech to deliver insights about crops to farmers, has closed a new round of funding. The Oakland-based company has pulled in a $25 million round led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from Romulus Capital. They have raised around $35 million to date
  • Since the company closed their Series A, they’ve continued expanding their efforts beyond vineyards and orchards into “row crops” like corn, soybeans and wheat. While those crops may be lower margin by nature, they offer a big opportunity when it comes to scaling up their operations and tackling problems on a bigger scale
  • “Our imagery helps farmers cope with a changing world full of challenges such as climate variability, labor shortages, and depressed markets,” said Ceres Imaging CEO Ashwin Madgavkar in a statement

Northwestern Medicine receives $25M to develop artificial intelligence – June 27, 2018 (WGN)

  • Northwestern Medicine has received a $25 million donation to develop artificial intelligence to treat heart disease
  • The gift from the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation was announced Tuesday. The foundation was formed by Chicago philanthropist and real estate developer Neil Bluhm, who in 2005 donated funds to create the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and recruit Dr. Patrick McCarthy as executive director
  • McCarthy says the donation will be used, in part, to launch a first-of-its-kind center that will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to better diagnose, treat and research heart disease

AI-fueled market intelligence firm Signal Media takes $16M to tackle more targets – June 27, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Signal Media has closed a $16 million Series B funding round for an AI-fueled approach to media monitoring and b2b market intelligence. The UK startup uses machine learning techniques to filter through external information at scale — generating real-time insights for its customers, including for reputation management and decision support purposes
  • Its system analyzes more than 2.8M global online, print, television, radio and regulatory sources, translated in real time in over 100 languages from 200 markets — serving up a customized overview of public conversations, market movements and issues pertinent to the client
  • The Series B funding round was led by GMG Ventures, an independent VC fund whose limited partner is The Scott Trust, owner of The Guardian news organisation; although MMC Ventures was the largest investor. The round also included a debt facility from Kreos Capital. Other investors include Frontline, Hearst Ventures, Reed Elsevier Ventures and LocalGlobe

Noodle.ai raises $35 million to feed the Beast, its AI-as-a-service platform – June 26, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • San Francisco-based enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) startup Noodle.ai today announced a $35 million round led by Dell Technologies Capital and TPG Growth
  • “[Noodle.ai] provides AI-as-a-service. [Companies] give us their data, and our product people take it from there,” Noodle.ai CEO Stephen Pratt told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “The output is a finished AI application they subscribe to on a monthly basis.”
  • The company, which owns its own datacenter, spends about three months building custom AI solutions for its customers and another three months integrating the results into their systems

Autonomous delivery drone startup Matternet raises $16 million round led by Boeing’s venture arm – June 26, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Because autonomous delivery drones are undoubtedly coming, Boeing HorizonX Ventures, the aviation company’s venture arm, led a $16 million round in drone startup Matternet . Other investors include Swiss Post, Sony Innovation Fund and Levitate Capital. With this funding, Matternet’s plan is to further expand throughout the U.S. and internationally in urban environments
  • “Matternet’s technology and proven track record make the development of a safe, global autonomous air mobility system a near-term reality,” Boeing HorizonX Ventures Managing Director Brian Schettler said in a statement. “Between the company’s success in Switzerland and being selected by the FAA to test unmanned aerial networks in the U.S., we are excited to work together to reimagine how the world connects and shape the next generation of transportation solutions.”
  • Just last month, the Federal Aviation Administration selected, among others, Matternet for drone logistics operations for U.S. hospitals as part of its Unmanned Aircraft System pilot program. In 2015, Matternet started testing the first drone delivery system in Zurich, Switzerland to transport blood and pathology samples to labs

Amazon, Microsoft, and Comcast back Tact.ai in $27 million funding round to expand its sales platform – June 25. 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Tact.ai, a Redwood City, California-based enterprise intelligence startup, announced today that it has closed a $27 million funding round led by Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Microsoft’s M12, Salesforce Ventures, and Comcast Ventures. The infusion of capital comes shortly after the opening of the company’s new headquarters in the United Kingdom and development center in Bengaluru, India
  • “Sales professionals need a way to control their data and coordinate with people, whether on a phone, smart speaker, or in-car,” Tact.ai founder and CEO Chuck Ganapathi said in a statement. “We’re pleased to work with world-class investors and global companies like Comcast, Amazon, and Salesforce.com to execute on our vision of a conversational and voice-driven enterprise for sales teams.”
  • Tact.ai’s eponymous Tact Assistant leverages the power of artificial intelligence to unify disparate sales tools, like LinkedIn, Microsoft Office 365, email, calendars, address books, and Salesforce. With Tact.ai’s smartphone app for Android and Alexa; Alexa and Cortana skills; Google Action; and chatbots for Microsoft Teams, WebEx Teams, and Slack, salespeople can manage deal flows and customer interactions conversationally without having to juggle multiple windows and software

Research / studies:

China Focus: AI beats human doctors in neuroimaging recognition contest – June 30, 2018 (Xinhua Net)

  • An artificial intelligence (AI) system scored 2:0 against elite human physicians Saturday in two rounds of competitions in diagnosing brain tumors and predicting hematoma expansion in Beijing
  • The BioMind AI system, developed by the Artificial Intelligence Research Centre for Neurological Disorders at the Beijing Tiantan Hospital and a research team from the Capital Medical University, made correct diagnoses in 87 percent of 225 cases in about 15 minutes, while a team of 15 senior doctors only achieved 66-percent accuracy. The AI also gave correct predictions in 83 percent of brain hematoma expansion cases, outperforming the 63-percent accuracy among a group of physicians from renowned hospitals across the country
  • To train the AI, developers fed it tens of thousands of images of nervous system-related diseases that the Tiantan Hospital has archived over the past 10 years, making it capable of diagnosing common neurological diseases such as meningioma and glioma with an accuracy rate of over 90 percent, comparable to that of a senior doctor

Deep Learning Equips Robots to Help Autistic Children With Therapy – June 30, 2018 (Interesting Engineering)

  • Children who have autism often find it challenging to ascertain the emotional state of people surrounding them. For example, they have trouble differentiating between a scared and a happy face. In order to resolve this concerning issue, some therapists have begun employing children-friendly robots who demonstrate these emotions and help them imitate these feelings so that they are then able to respond to them appropriately.
  • These robots are designed in a way that they engage autistic kids in a personalized way. However, this therapy can work only if a robot can accurately comprehend a child’s behavior and analyze his/her level of focus and excitement during the course of therapy. This is where the researchers from MIT Media Lab come into the picture! They have designed a personalized machine learning network that assists these robots in estimating the interest and engagement of a child during a therapy session
  • As a result of this deep learning network, it becomes a piece of cake for robots to perceive the response of each child in a personalized manner. This response is later verified with the human experts’ assessments

Google researchers created an amazing scene-rendering AI – June 29, 2018 (ARS Technica)

  • New research from Google’s UK-based DeepMind subsidiary demonstrates that deep neural networks have a remarkable capacity to understand a scene, represent it in a compact format, and then “imagine” what the same scene would look like from a perspective the network hasn’t seen before
  • Human beings are good at this. If shown a picture of a table with only the front three legs visible, most people know intuitively that the table probably has a fourth leg on the opposite side and that the wall behind the table is probably the same color as the parts they can see. With practice, we can learn to sketch the scene from another angle, taking into account perspective, shadow, and other visual effects
  • A DeepMind team led by Ali Eslami and Danilo Rezende has developed software based on deep neural networks with these same capabilities—at least for simplified geometric scenes. Given a handful of “snapshots” of a virtual scene, the software—known as a generative query network (GQN)—uses a neural network to build a compact mathematical representation of that scene. It then uses that representation to render images of the room from new perspectives—perspectives the network hasn’t seen before

China’s largest carmaker SAIC Motor launches its own AI lab – June 29, 2018 (TechNode)

  • The Shanghai-headquartered SAIC Motor is reportedly the first domestic automaker to establish an AI lab. The new lab will focus on research and development, as well as real-world AI solutions in three fundamental areas—cloud computing, big data and business applications—with the ambition to push forward smart transport, smart manufacturing, and intelligent driving. The AI solutions will be adopted across businesses under the SAIC Motor umbrella, such as rental service and logistics. The company also plans on using AI to improve the efficiency of its car manufacturing
  • SAIC Motors deputy chief engineer Zu Sijie stressed that the company plans to take advantage of innovative applications of AI as they emerge. “We believe that artificial intelligence is the next step for the auto industry,” he’s quoted as saying, adding that the AI lab is of strategic importance on the investment side of things. Zu revealed that SAIC Motor has not put a cap on the amount of investment that it plans to put into AI research and development
  • As of now, SAIC Motor’s AI lab is a team of nearly 70 people. The company plans to collaborate with academia on research projects and will set up a separate technology company to work in tandem with the AI lab in the near future. The lab will provide technology support for SAIC Motor, and the tech venture will focus on the commercialization of AI technology

IBM researchers design a fast, power-efficient chip for AI training – June 29, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Researchers at IBM developed a new chip tailor-made for AI training. In a paper published in the journal Nature titled “Equivalent-accuracy accelerated neural-network training using analog memory,” they describe a system of transistors and capacitors that can train neural networks quickly, precisely, and highly energy-efficiently
  • The scientists’ solution consists of analog memory and traditional electronic components. Individual cells made up of a pair of phase change memory (PCM) units and a combination of a capacitor and three transistors correspond to individual neurons in the network. The PCMs store weight data in memory, which is represented in the transistors and capacitors as an electrical charge
  • The researches used a mix of hardware PCMs and software-simulated components to benchmark the design, and the results are promising. The chip performed 100 times more calculations per square millimeter than a GPU while using 280 times less power. Even more impressive, it matched the speed and accuracy of Google’s TensorFlow machine learning framework on a variety of computer vision tasks

Tsinghua University plans to open AI research center in China, names Google’s AI chief as advisor – June 28, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Today at Google’s AI Symposium in Beijing, Tsinghua University revealed plans to open a center for artificial intelligence research and development in China. In a related announcement, it said that Jeff Dean, Google’s AI chief, will serve on the University’s computer science advisory committee
  • The Tsinghua University Institute for Artificial Intelligence, led by Bo Zhang, dean of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Turing Award laureate Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, will focus on new types of AI hardware and core algorithms, according to the university, and collaborate with tech companies such as Tencent and Horizontal Robotics

Bill Gates says gamer bots from Elon Musk-backed nonprofit are ‘huge milestone’ in A.I. – June 28, 2018 (CNBC)

  • The nonprofit OpenAI, co-founded and backed by billionaire tech titan Elon Musk, has built a team of robots that beat a team of humans at the complex video game Dota 2. The feat impressed billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates
  • “#AI bots just beat humans at the video game Dota 2. That’s a big deal, because their victory required teamwork and collaboration — a huge milestone in advancing artificial intelligence,” Gates tweeted Tuesday
  • “Dota is one of the most popular and challenging competitive video games ever. Playing Dota means you have to coordinate and focus as a team of five. Last year, we built a bot that defeated the world’s best players at the one-[versus]-one minigame. This year, we want to beat the best pro teams at the full game. To do this, we have built a new AI system which we spent the last few months training,” Dennison says

Criteo creates an AI lab in Paris – June 28, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Adtech company Criteo is investing $23 million (€20 million) in a new artificial intelligence lab in Paris. Over the next three years, the company plans to hire researchers to work on AI-related projects. Many of their projects will lead to public presentations, open-source releases and research papers. VP of Research Suju Rajan is going to lead the lab
  • Criteo has been a flagship company in the French tech scene. The company specialized in ad retargeting and filed for an IPO around five years ago

Government / policy:

U.S. experts, tech firms urge open exchange on AI with China – June 30, 2018 (Xinhua Net)

  • “I think it’s much better to talk and communicate and share and get more done than I’m gonna just stay narrow and compete, and keep what we have from them,” Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak told Xinhua at the first U.S.-China AI Tech Summit held in Silicon Valley
  • The gathering on the development of AI technology saw heated discussions on the relationship between the United States and China on the major challenges ahead with the acceleration of AI adoption across various industries
  • The summit traces its origin to a meeting of Helen Liang, managing partner of an early stage venture capital firm FoundersX Ventures, and Cyrus Hodes, advisor to the minister of artificial intelligence of United Arab Emirates, who shared the same shuttle leaving the Wuzhen Summit held in China in December 2017

Facial recognition found Capital Gazette suspect among 10M photos – June 30, 2018 (ARS Technica)

  • Maryland authorities used their facial recognition capabilities to identity Jarrod Ramos, the suspect in the Capital Gazette shooting, which left four journalists and one newspaper sales associate dead on Thursday
  • When he was apprehended at the scene of the horrific crime in Annapolis, Ramos had no identification and seemingly would not speak to police. Investigators then appeared to have taken a mugshot or some other similar type of photo and fed it into the state’s Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS)
  • That database contains approximately 10 million driver’s license images and mug shots, according to documents released by Georgetown University researchers

China hospitals go digital way; Robot doctors, AI ambulances to care for patients soon – June 29, 2018 (IB Times)

  • China has recently tested an ambulance in the Hangzhou city that smoothly went through the traffic without any hassle and appeared to be the most efficient mode of transport for patients. The ambulance was connected to an AI system and big data that is concerned with sending information to a centralized computer that updates users about the transport network of the city. Tech Giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. initiated the AI-driven project to ensure the Chinese healthcare issues are controlled
  • If the nation starts using robot doctors and AI ambulances, maximum of its health care issues will be resolved and India too can follow the digital model of China

UN report criticises use of facial recognition by Welsh police – June 29, 2018 (The Guardian)

  • The use of facial recognition by police in south Wales during a peaceful demonstration has been criticised as disproportionate and unnecessary in a report by the UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci. He issued the interim report at the end of a two-week visit to the UK to investigate privacy rights
  • South Wales police began experimenting with facial recognition in June last year, deploying it at various public events, including sporting and music venues
  • The civil rights group Liberty is supporting a Cardiff resident, Ed Bridges, who wrote to the chief constable of South Wales police alleging he was tracked at a peaceful anti-arms protest and while out shopping

The US Army is using machine learning to predict when combat vehicles need repair – June 26, 2018 (The Verge)

  • Keeping track of the mechanical health of millions of pieces of equipment is a big job for the Army. To help with this data-intensive work, it’s recruiting an AI assistant. Machine learning software developed by Chicago firm Uptake Technologies will be used to predict when vehicles will need repair, flagging problems to army mechanics before they become disastrous
  • The pilot scheme will cover a few dozen armored infantry transports (Bradley M2A3s) deployed in active service. Sensors inside the vehicles’ engines record information like temperature and RPM, and transmit this to Uptake’s software. This uses machine learning to look for patterns in the data that match known engine failures in similar vehicles
  • Our platform is like a brain that collects signals from all these nerve endings [in the engine] and produces feedback,” Uptake’s VP of communications Abby Hunt tells The Verge. “Whether it’s the coolant running low or some other problem, we know we’ve seen this in other engines, and can tell someone that the transmission may fail in a week or two, for example.”

US gov quizzes AI experts about when the machines will take over – June 26, 2018 (The Register)

  • A panel of AI experts were grilled on the impact and importance of artificial general intelligence by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday
  • The hearing was ominously named “Artificial Intelligence – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” Narrow AI for specific tasks has been rapidly advancing and the committee wanted to know how far off artificial general intelligence (AGI), where a system can learn multiple actions and do them better than humans, would be

Orlando abandons Amazon’s facial recognition technology amid tracking abuse concerns – June 26, 2018 (CNBC)

  • Orlando stopped testing Amazon’s Rekognition program after civil rights groups raised privacy abuse concerns
  • The facial recognition program was designed to detect offensive content and secure public safety
  • Last month, more than 40 civil rights groups sent a letter to Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos saying the new tools for identifying and tracking people could lead to civil rights violations