What’s happened in AI: September 24th-30th

By | October 1, 2018

Big week across the board in the AI world. To start, there were a few developments related to social good including Microsoft’s $40mm fund dedicated to developers focused on solving humanitarian problems and Google using its AI to predict floods in India. We definitely to see more of this. For the major company developments, look no further than DeepMind partnering with Unity to develop simulated AI training environments and Ford potentially eyeing an IPO for its self-driving car unit.

Company developments:

Autonomous shuttle startup May Mobility expands to a third U.S. city – Sept. 29, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • The company, which just announced plans to expand to Columbus, Ohio, is planning to add another route in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s a rapid acceleration for a company that was founded less than two years ago
  • May Mobility is different from other companies racing to deploy autonomous vehicles at a commercial scale. The startup, which was founded by veterans in the self-driving and automotive industry, has developed low-speed autonomous shuttles that are designed to run along a specific route in business districts or corporate and college campuses

Tesla enlists employees to be ‘full self-driving’ beta testers – Sept. 28, 2018 (Automotive News)

  • Musk wrote in an email obtained by Bloomberg News that Tesla needed about 100 more employees to join an internal testing program linked to rolling out the full self-driving capability. Any worker who buys a Tesla and agrees to share 300 to 400 hours of driving feedback with the company’s Autopilot team by the end of next year won’t have to pay for full self-driving — an $8,000 savings — or for a premium interior, which normally costs $5,000, Musk wrote

Softbank’s ARM unveils dedicated chip design for autonomous cars – Sept. 26, 2018 (Reuters)

  • The new line of AE, or “Automotive Enhanced”, application processors lets chipmakers design chips with security features that allow autonomous cars to meet the toughest safety requirements, the company said on Wednesday, as it unveiled its first autonomous-class processor, the Cortex-A76AE. It expects the first cars using the processor to hit the roads in 2020
  • Existing ARM customers working on autonomous driving platforms include Nvidia, NXP, Renesas, Samsung’s Harman business, and Siemens Mentor unit, among others. ARM-based chips are used in 85 percent of car entertainment systems and two-thirds of collision detection processor chips

Daimler names new CEO to lead push into electric, autonomous vehicles – Sept. 26, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Daimler said Wednesday that Dieter Zetsche is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by a long-serving executive who has most recently been leading the automaker’s research and development efforts, including its push into electric vehicles
  • Daimler has picked Ola Källenius to head up Mercedes-Benz vehicles and Daimler. Källenius is the first non-German to hold the top spot. Källenius most recently headed up research at Daimler and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars. He joined the company in 1993, then called Daimler-Benz AG, as a trainee within its International Management Associate Program

Google is using AI to predict floods in India and warn users – Sept. 25, 2018 (The Verge)

  • For years Google has warned users about natural disasters by incorporating alerts from government agencies like FEMA into apps like Maps and Search. Now, the company is making predictions of its own. As part of a partnership with the Central Water Commission of India, Google will now alert users in the country about impending floods. The service is only currently available in the Patna region, with the first alert going out earlier this month
  • “A variety of elements — from historical events, to river level readings, to the terrain and elevation of a specific area — feed into our models,” writes Matias. “With this information, we’ve created river flood forecasting models that can more accurately predict not only when and where a flood might occur, but the severity of the event as well.”

Adobe introduces AI assistant to help Analytics users find deeper insights – Sept. 24, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • John Bates, director of product management for Adobe Analytics says that in the past, the company has used artificial intelligence and machine learning under the hood of Analytics to help their users understand their customer’s behavior better. This marks the first time, Adobe will be using this technology to understand how the user works with Analytics to offer new data they might not have considered

Microsoft introduces Azure service to automatically build AI models – Sept. 24, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • The new service will compete with similar services that use machine learning, such as Google’s AutoML. Nvidia is also exploring semiautonomous creation of AI models with Project Maglev
  • The Azure Cognitive Service is getting an upgrade as well today, with Speech Service becoming generally available for speech recognition and translation. An advanced new speech synthesis from Microsoft called Human Parity Text-to-Speech is now available in preview

Fundraising / investment:

Pymetrics raises $40 million for AI-powered job recruitment – Sept. 27, 2018 (Venture Beat)

  • Pymetrics today announced it has raised $40 million to expand its work using a combination of neuroscience and artificial intelligence to help companies recruit the right job candidates. The funding will allow Pymetrics to continue its product development and expansion in markets outside the United States
  • More than 60 companies use Pymetrics in their hiring practices today, including Unilever, Hyatt, and Accenture. In some instances, companies using Pymetrics have seen a 20 percent increase in the diversity of hires and a 65 percent increase in retention rates

Idx raises $33 million for AI diagnostic systems that detect eye disease and other conditions – Sept. 27, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Iowa-based Idx is one startup using AI to detect early signs of specific medical conditions. Its first system, IDx-DR, is an AI diagnostic system that analyzes images of the retina for signs of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes caused by high sugar levels. This means that health care providers, including doctors who are not eye care specialists, can use the IDx-DR system to detect diabetic retinopathy without needing to bring in a specialist clinician to interpret the image scan or results
  • In April, Idx received FDA clearance for IDx-DR, and in June the system was put to work in clinical practice at University of Iowa Health Care. This week, the company announced a $33 million tranche of funding led by 8VC, with participation from Optum Ventures, Alpha Edison, and Heritage Provider Network. This takes the company’s total funding to date past the $54 million mark, and it’s now well positioned to grow IDx-DR across the medical realm

M12-backed TwentyBN raises $10 million to help AI interpret human behavior – Sept. 26, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Twenty Billion Neurons (TwentyBN), a three-year-old a startup with offices in Berlin and Canada, announced a $10 million funding round led by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, with participation from Coparion, Creative Edge, and MFV Partners
  • TwentyBN’s novel computer vision systems can interact with humans while observing them using nothing but an off-the-shelf RGB camera. Its artificial intelligence (AI) not only responds to basic behaviors, but takes into account the surroundings and context of each engagement, providing human-like awareness of situations

Ford’s self-driving car guru sees second customer, IPO possible – Sept. 25, 2018 (Automotive News)

  • Ford’s plan, Bryan Salesky argues, is far grander and will involve up to 100,000 self-driving cars — with no steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal — operating in multiple U.S. cities, delivering people and packages around the clock. To demonstrate that Ford is further along than people think, the normally media shy Salesky has begun to emerge from the shadows and share his story
  • He might even start sharing Argo’s self-driving technology with another automaker, something that’s possible because Argo remains independent. And it could happen soon. “We are in discussions,” Salesky says. “We’re definitely interested in making something happen.” That could also include going public. “We’re actually thinking about an IPO and making sure that we’re setting the company up for that,” Salesky says. A public stock sale doesn’t require winning a second automotive customer, he adds

Microsoft launches $40 million AI for Humanitarian Action initiative – Sept. 24, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Microsoft today introduced the AI for Humanitarian Action initiative, a $40 million, five-year plan to support developers interested in creating tools and services with the goal of helping humanity. The initiative will focus on four specific areas: refugees and displaced people, the needs of children, disaster response, and human rights


Google’s DeepMind and Unity join forces to create simulated environments for AI training – Sept. 26, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • The Unity engine is currently used by 50 percent of mobile games and 60 percent of AR/VR experiences. The Unity ML Toolkit for training intelligent agents made its debut in September 2017. Like OpenAI’s Gym and DeepMind Lab, the Unity ML Toolkit can be used to simulate actions and train agents using forms of deep reinforcement learning
  • “Games and simulations have been a core part of DeepMind’s research program from the very beginning, and this approach has already led to significant breakthroughs in AI research,” DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said in a statement shared with VentureBeat. “As a former video game designer myself, I couldn’t be more excited to be collaborating with Unity, creating virtual environments for developing and testing the kind of smart, flexible algorithms we need to tackle real-world problems.”

MIT And IBM Lab Partnership Launches 48 Projects To Tackle AI Challenges – Sept. 26, 2018 (Forbes)

  • The collaboration focuses on four areas. The first, and largest, area focuses on developing advanced algorithms to expand capabilities in machine learning and reasoning. The second area is specialized hardware for AI, which it calls the “Physics of AI.” In this area, the team researches how new hardware materials, devices, and architectures can improve AI model training and deployment. Both organizations have a strong legacy in quantum computing research that the lab will leverage for the Physics of AI projects
  • The third area looks at how to use AI within specific industries. The two main industry verticals areas are healthcare and security, which isn’t surprising given IBM’s substantial commercial and research investments in those particular sectors. The team is evaluating how to use AI in areas such as the security and privacy of medical data, personalization of health care, image analysis, and the optimum treatment paths for specific patients. The lab also plans to add financial services as its third industry vertical in 2019. Finally, the group also wants to explore how AI could deliver economic and societal benefits to a broader range of people, nations, and enterprises. It calls this set of projects AI for shared prosperity

LabKey and Linguamatics Partner to Extract Clinical Insights from Big Data in Healthcare – Sept. 25, 2018 (PR Newswire)

  • Linguamatics, the leading natural language processing (NLP) text analytics provider, and LabKey, a provider of bioinformatics data management solutions, today announced an integrated solution designed to streamline the extraction and curation of valuable insights from large volumes of unstructured clinical notes and reports
  • With Linguamatics NLP engine I2E, healthcare and life sciences teams can significantly reduce the manual processes involved in information analysis and extraction. When integrated with LabKey Server’s document processing pipeline and curation user interface (UI), the combined solution provides an end-to-end pathway for unstructured data from acquisition to analysis

Research / studies:

Researchers train AI to identify people from their footsteps – Sept. 25, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi describe the system in a paper titled “Person Identification using Seismic Signals generated from Footfalls.” It’s based on a fog computing architecture, which employs edge devices to carry out much of the computing, storage, and communication involved in data collection. (This cuts down on costs by minimizing bandwidth and energy requirements, the team noted.)

Government / policy:

U.S. should double A.I. funding, says the former head of Google China – Sept. 29, 2018 (CNBC)

  • As China becomes more active in artificial intelligence, the U.S. should double the amount it spends on research in the field, says investor and AI practitioner Kai-Fu Lee, who has worked for Google, Microsoft and Apple
  • Lee, whose book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order” was published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is CEO of Sinovation Ventures, which has invested in one of the most prominent AI companies in China, Face++. In the 1980s at Carnegie Mellon University he worked on an AI system that beat the highest-ranked American Othello player, and later he was an executive at Microsoft Research and president of Google’s China branch

Canada’s use of artificial intelligence in immigration could lead to break of human rights: study – Sept. 26, 2018 (Global News)

  • A new report is warning about the federal government’s interest in using artificial intelligence to screen and process immigrant files, saying it could create discrimination, as well as privacy and human rights breaches
  • The research, conducted by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab outlines the impacts of automated decision-making involving immigration applications and how errors and assumptions within the technology could lead to “life-and-death ramifications” for immigrants and refugees

Senators introduce the ‘Artificial Intelligence in Government Act’ – Sept. 26, 2018 (Fed Scoop)

  • To this end, the bipartisan group including Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced the Artificial Intelligence in Government Act on Wednesday. Per a news release, the bill would seek to “improve the use of AI across the federal government by providing resources and directing federal agencies to include AI in data-related planning.”
  • The bill aims to do a number of things, including establishing an AI in government advisory board, directing the White House Office of Management and Budget to look into AI as part of the federal data strategy, getting the Office of Personnel Management to look at what kinds of employee skills are necessary for AI competence in government and expanding “an office” at the General Services Administration that will provide expertise, do research and “promote U.S. competitiveness.”

Report: China will outspend US on AI research by end of 2018 – Sept. 25, 2018 (TNW)

  • The US House Oversight and Reform IT Subcommittee today released the results of a months-long investigation into Federal investment and oversight in artificial intelligence. There’s a lot to unpack here, and most of it is bad
  • If the Trump administration doesn’t make drastic changes China will pass us in AI R&D spending this year, and will likely lead the globe in AI technologies long before the 2030 deadline its government issued last year


Global Artificial Intelligence Conference 2018: The value of context – Sept. 28, 2018 (Tech Target)

  • AI can recognize an animal and shapes, but it would not be able to recognize that an elephant is in a bedroom and outside of its typical habitat. These complications were a recurring theme at the Global Artificial Intelligence Conference 2018 in Boston this week: Technology cannot be developed in a vacuum. And when developing and implementing AI, it’s important to give the technology — and ourselves — context of use