With growing momentum propelling deep learning and artificial intelligence, a lot is being said about the race by giant tech firms looking to grab AI startups. It isn’t often that companies with billions of dollars have to stoop to buy existing firms rather than develop the technologies on their own. What exactly has brought the industry to a situation where giants like Google and Microsoft are buying startups rather than using their own infrastructure and staff? After all, startup is called a “startup” for a reason: It’s a company that’s just been started and usually from scratch. So, what is it that a startup has that a giant technology firm could possible need?
The answer, as strange as at it might seem, is an “idea.” Ideas are what make or break startups, and with cloud computing firms like AWS and Azure putting the required resources at the fingertips of anyone who’s interested, putting those ideas to work is not so difficult any more. Here’s a look at some of the AI startups with the coolest ideas.
When we think about great ideas in AI, 6Sense is one of the first startups that come to mind.
Founded in April 2013, 6Sense has acquired a large market share early in the game with their business-to-business predictive sales and marketing system. In other words, this startup is, at this very moment, helping Cisco, Dell, Dropbox, IBM, Qlik, and NetSuite effectively predict sales. With the help of machine-learning techniques, they are able to capture and analyze time-based structured and unstructured behavioral data from thousands of sources, including the Internet of Things.
This data is invaluable when sales predictions need to be made. The beauty of machine learning is its accuracy keeps increasing as it keeps analyzing and learning, so it’s essentially a system that builds on itself and keeps building. The company has already raised over $40 million, and its investors include Salesforce Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Battery Ventures, and Venrock.
Figuring out legal paperwork is sometimes an especially difficult task, and the folks over at LegalRobot had the intuition that this was one field where AI could ease the workload.
Legal contracts can be detailed -- and that’s putting it mildly. What LegalRobot does is give companies the power to make sense of lengthy contracts in seconds. The implications of an AI system that can understand legal documentation and explain it in simple terms run deep, and some people are asking the question how much longer before we can hire an AI attorney, or maybe have one as a judge?
As far as an AI attorney goes, they needn’t ask that question any longer since Ohio-based law firm Baker Hostetler just hired “ROSS,” the world’s first robot lawyer, to assist with bankruptcy cases. Relatively new in the AI field, ROSS Intelligence has built an automated AI “lawyer” that’s powered by IBM’s Watson and is capable of supporting the legal research needs of large offices. Law is an especially
great field for AI since there are fixed procedures and rules to be followed. This doesn’t mean we’re done with human lawyers, however. “Human lawyers sit at the center of the system we’ve built,” ROSS CEO Andrew Arruda says.
x.ai takes the whole personal assistant model to the next level with “Amy.” CEO Dennis Mortensen says his New York-based startup was founded more out of necessity than anything else. After scheduling over 1,000 meetings in 2012, many of which were cancelled or rescheduled, he set out to use machine learning to solve the problem. Enter Amy, and many people claim after interacting with her that it’s hard to believe she isn’t real.
Amy not only schedules meetings, but also negotiates with people on your behalf with reference to timings and locations, sends out invites and reminders, and keeps track of who attended and who didn’t. “Amy Ingram,” as she is called, will eventually even book meeting halls. The company has secured more than $34 million over three rounds of equity financing from 11 investors, including FirstMark Capital, IA Ventures, and Matt Turck.
The ultimate breakthrough in AI would be a robot that can predict the future, of course. Though a number of science-fiction movies play with the idea, it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Banjo is building the world’s first disaster-prediction program, and one if its aims is to make terrorism impossible. Quite a big task for any startup, but with founder and MIT graduate Damien Patton claiming that “social signals” can be used to predict terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, this company definitely has investors’ interest.
What Banjo does is analyze all the collective social and digital signals from all over the world to reach a level of understanding with regards to what’s happening on the planet at any given point of time. Some are calling it a “God’s-eye view,” while Banjo says they are building the proverbial “crystal ball.” What this cool piece of technology has effectively done is made it possible to know what’s happening anywhere in the world at any point of time.
Real Life Analytics
This is quite an interesting venture that takes targeted advertising to a whole new level. Imagine if every digital screen in the world was looking back at you and could recognize faces and advertise according to specific interests? Well, that’s exactly what Real Life Analytics is all about, and it does it in real time. This London-based startup brings facial detection to billboards and in-store advertising screens all over the world. It enables demographic targeting of ads and facilitates the collection of valuable data at the same time.
There are a lot of implications here. For example if signboards can recognize people, they can also be used keep an eye out for wanted or suspicious characters at the same time and can be taught to look for signs of trouble. With AI attorneys, intelligent sign boards, and crystal balls, we are definitely witnessing the ushering in of a new age with regards to technology.
ClevAPI is all about automatic branding. It allows users to put their logos on products in a way that’s more natural and engaging for viewers. This cutting-edge image-recognition software is able to take an image and effectively break it down into components. So if a picture had a man on a motorcycle, ClevAPI breaks it down into finer details including each and every part of the motorcycle that’s visible and the man’s accessories right from helmet to riding boots, allowing for logos and brands to be placed appropriately.
There has never been a market more ripe for startups than the AI market right now. Anyone who is interested in and understands machine learning has access to the required resources to put their learning into practice effectively and economically. Since 2011, more than 60 AI startups have been acquired by tech giants Google, Yahoo, IBM, and Apple, and that number keeps rising. With the technological infrastructure built by a large corporation now available for any startup to play around with, don’t be surprised if someone you know -- maybe even you -- comes up with the next big thing in AI.