What’s happened in AI: December 10th-16th

By | December 17, 2018

End of the year AI blues for the U.S. government. Recent reports have indicated the Pentagon is concerned the U.S. is losing its AI advantage to China and Europe. Democratic lawmakers also pushed back against a compromise bill for self-driving vehicles. Will be interesting to see how legislature approaches AI in 2019. My guess is it will slip again, but hopefully I’m proven wrong.

Company developments:

‘We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles’: Uber employee warned firm of self-driving safety risks five days before autonomous car struck and killed a pedestrian – Dec. 11, 2018 (Daily Mail)

  • An employee warned the ride-sharing giant that there were issues with Uber’s autonomous-driving technology just days before Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old Arizona woman, was struck and killed
  • The email, which was sent to several high-level executives at Uber, warned that the self-driving cars had been involved in several accidents, likely due to ‘poor behavior of the operator of the AV technology,’ according to the Information

Salesforce is hiring its first Chief Ethical and Humane Use officer to make sure its artificial intelligence isn’t used for evil (CRM) – Dec. 11, 2018 (Pulse)

  • Salesforce will hire Paula Goldman as its first Chief Ethical and Humane Use officer. Goldman will spearhead a new Office of Ethical and Humane Use, which focuses on developing strategies to use technology in an ethical and humane way at the company
  • This announcement comes during a year of protests in Silicon Valley over how companies — including Salesforce — put its technology to use, as tech workers protest deals with the U.S. military and immigration authorities

Fundraising / investment:

Chorus.ai raises $33 million for AI that listens in on sales calls – Dec. 13, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Chorus.ai, a three-year-old San Francisco and Tel Aviv startup uses AI to analyze sales calls, to new heights. It today revealed that it’s raised $33 million in series B financing from Georgian Partners and returning investors Redpoint Ventures and Emergence Capital, following a $16 million series A funding round in February 2017 and a $6.3 million seed round in October 2016. To date, Chorus has brought in $55.3 million
  • “Chorus.ai exists to help Sales teams have higher quality conversations that result in higher quota attainment, higher rep productivity, and shorter new hire ramp time,” Raanani said. “Billions of dollars in revenue are flowing through video conferencing platforms and phone calls.”

AI-powered knowledge-sharing platform Guru raises $25 million Series B – Dec. 12, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Guru, the enterprise-focused information-sharing platform, has today announced the close of a $25 million Series B funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from existing investors Emergence Capital, FirstMark Capital, Slack Fund and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital
  • Guru came on to the scene in 2013 with the premise that organizations are not so great at building out informational databases, nor are they very good at using them. So Guru built a Chrome extension that simply sits as a layer on employees’ computers and surfaces the right information whenever asked

Mark Cuban-Backed Facial Recognition Startup Suspect Tech Gets $810K – Dec. 12, 2018 (Xconomy)

  • His Cambridge, MA-based facial recognition software startup Suspect Technologies has closed on an $810,000 funding round co-led by billionaire investor and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban and Santa Monica, CA-based venture firm Chaac Ventures
  • Up until now, Suspect Technologies has sold its automatic facial-redaction software to makers of police body cameras, and cops use it to blur or block faces in the videos. The company, founded in 2015 by Sniff and his MIT research partner Srikanth Parupati, is set to roll out the next version of its software that will identify specific suspects from compiled surveillance video footage—and help police manage the long hours of video from investigations or body cameras

TechSee nabs $16M for its customer support solution built on computer vision and AR – Dec. 11, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Today, an Israeli startup called TechSee is announcing $16 million in funding to help build out its own twist on that innovation: an AI-based video service, which uses computer vision, augmented reality and a customer’s own smartphone camera to provide tech support to customers, either alongside assistance from live agents, or as part of a standalone customer service “bot”
  • Led by Scale Venture Partners — the storied investor that has been behind some of the bigger enterprise plays of the last several years (including Box, Chef, Cloudhealth, DataStax, Demandbase, DocuSign, ExactTarget, HubSpot, JFrog and fellow Israeli AI assistance startup WalkMe), the Series B also includes participation from Planven Investments, OurCrowd, Comdata Group and Salesforce Ventures. (Salesforce was actually announced as a backer in October.)


Huawei, RoboSense join group pushing open-source autonomous driving technology – Dec. 10, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • Telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies, its semiconductor subsidiary HiSilicon and RoboSense, a maker of lidar sensors used in driverless cars, have become the first Chinese companies to help establish an international non-profit group that supports open-source autonomous driving projects
  • The three firms are among the more than 20 founding members of the Autoware Foundation, which aims to promote collaboration between corporate and academic research efforts in autonomous driving technology, according to a statement from the group on Monday

Research / studies:

NVIDIA Comes Out On Top In a New Industry AI Benchmark Test – Dec. 14, 2018 (Computer Business Review)

  • The MLPerf, initiated in May, is a collaboration of engineers and researchers working to build a new industry benchmark. The MLPerf benchmark is supported by a wide consortium of technology leaders such as Google, Intel, NVIDIA, AMD and Qualcomm
  • It was launched as the pace at which machine learning and AI has been moving in recent years has made it difficult to get an accurate measurement of a company’s capabilities. This is compounded by the fact ML and AI can be sprawling terms that encompass a range of techniques making it hard to compare efforts in the field

Artificial intelligence-based device detects moving parasites in bodily fluid for easier, earlier diagnosis – Dec. 14, 2018 (UCLA)

  • The device can analyze more than 3 milliliters of fluid in 20 minutes — much faster than traditional imaging. And it is capable of detecting 10 parasites per milliliter of whole blood, a quantity about five times greater than current methods can detect
  • The development of the device was led by Aydogan Ozcan, UCLA Chancellor’s Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, along with Kent Hill, a UCLA professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics. Their research is described in a paper published in Light: Science & Applications

Government / policy:

Pentagon says U.S. military losing its advantage with artificial intelligence – Dec. 16, 2018 (The Gazette)

  • The U.S. military is starting to lose a high-tech advantage as China and Russia develop sophisticated artificial intelligence, Pentagon officials warned a House subcommittee last week
  • China spent $12 billion in 2017 on artificial intelligence but plans to increase its budget to at least $70 billion by 2020, according to Defense Department reports. Meanwhile, the U.S. military spent about $7.4 billion for new technology development in fiscal 2017, which included artificial intelligence

Senate Democrats fight push to pass driverless-car bill during lame duck Congress – Dec. 10, 2018 (Washington Post)

  • Senate Democrats are pushing back against attempts to pass a compromise bill in the lame-duck session that could speed the introduction of driverless cars onto U.S. roadways, saying it lacks safeguards that would protect drivers
  • The fight over the bill pits some automakers, which have argued that less regulation will speed the advent of autonomous vehicles, against safety advocates and states that say Washington should exert a firm hand in regulating the budding industry

Korea builds urban infrastructure for testing autonomous vehicles – Dec. 10, 2018 (Korea Times)

  • KT and the Korea Transportation Safety Authority (TS) have completed construction of the nation’s first experimental city, based on the high-end fifth-generation (5G) networks, to test autonomous vehicles, the telecom company said Monday
  • The experimental city, which was set up in the 360,000 square meters of land with support from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, is aimed at commercializing level-3 self-driving cars at the earliest possible datex


Facial recognition tech used to scan for stalkers at Taylor Swift show: report – Dec. 14, 2018 (NBC News)

  • A kiosk that showed rehearsal clips of her to entertain fans at her May 18 show at the Rose Bowl had a facial recognition camera hidden inside, which transferred pictures of the unwitting fans to a “command post” in Nashville, Mike Downing, chief security officer of Oak View Group, told the magazine

AWS broadens machine learning portfolio at re:Invent with services for both novices and experts – Dec. 12, 2018 (Diginomica)

  • Watching an Andy Jassy AWS re:Invent keynote can feel like attending the opening lecture of a killer college course where you’re taking notes so fast your brain can’t process all the information. Only after several days of rereading your notes and cross-referencing the course text does it begin to make sense