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China and US compete to dominate big data

Algorithms trained on mountains of Chinese data may soon be making decisions that deeply affect the lives of people in the US.

Or as the company boasts, it was honed on the “world’s largest portrait system, covering more than 1.5bn people.” Yitu is now looking for customers in the US to put its software to work.

Shenzhen-based Malong Technologies has also trained its image recognition algorithms on masses of Chinese data— in its case, by analysing hundreds of thousands of photos from fashion shows to identify trends for clients in the garment industry.

“key difference in China is there are just more people, more data, more businesses — it’s just bigger,” says chief technology officer Matt Scott, a former Microsoft researcher who moved to China to co-found the company.

“Having access to that data in China, we can export [the technology] around the world.” Algorithms like these are the advanced guard in a battle that will go a long way to determining economic leadership in the era of Big Data — a contest where China is catching up quickly and now vying with the US to be the dominant force.

For some industries, deep learning — the most advanced form of the technology — has the potential to create value equivalent to as much as 9 per cent of a company’s revenues, according to a report in April from McKinsey Global Institute.

“It’s clear that the US government sees itself in a tech arms race with the Chinese government,” says Robert Silvers, a partner at legal firm Paul Hastings and former assistant secretary for cyber policy at the department of homeland security.

As well as answering mundane customer queries and piloting driverless cars, the same technology can also be deployed to synchronise drone swarms, analyse pictures taken by spy drones and control autonomous boats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin found his own way to raise the rhetorical stakes over AI last year: “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” According to most experts, the US still has a clear lead.

It takes three things to be a world-class AI power: the most advanced algorithms, specialised computing hardware, and a good supply of the raw material that machine learning systems depend on — data.

He points to other signs of China’s growing AI capability, from the reading comprehension test earlier this year in which AI newcomer Alibaba tied for top honours with traditional research power Microsoft, to the strong showing of Chinese researchers in the annual ImageNet competition for image recognition.

But it is also a tribute to China’s early move online: this is a country where people order, shop, pay and play online, leaving massive data footprints that enable merchants to accurately target ads and promotions.

Chinese attitudes to data privacy are becoming slightly less lax, but regulations are still a million miles from Europe, which is at the other end of the spectrum and will introduce tough privacy rules later this month known as General Data Protection Regulation.

Chinese executives talk about a smart city scheme that halved the time it takes to speed ambulances from depot to patient to hospital, by dint of switching traffic flows and traffic lights.

In addition to projects aimed at traffic management, crowd control, finding missing children and elderly, cutting down hospital waiting times — the list goes on — all the big tech players have joint research labs with government.

One leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist puts the difference in AI opportunities bluntly: “The business is bigger and better in China.” This economic momentum behind AI is closely aligned with a second powerful force: a sense of national mission.

Strategic Competition in an Era of Artificial Intelligence

Under India’s Defence Research and Development Organization, the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) dates back to 1986 and today focuses on AI, robotics, and command and control, among other defense research and development priorities.57 To date, CAIR has pursued developments in these areas that include a robot sentry, autonomous navigation system, and an autonomous search robot, among others.58 Notably, in February 2018 India’s Department of Defence Production established a new task force to study military applications of AI, with an order that emphasized, “While [AI] can fuel technology driven economic growth, it also has potential to provide military superiority.”59 In addition, in January 2018 there was an announcement that India and Japan plan to collaborate to introduce AI and robotics in the defense sector, building upon existing strategic cooperation that has intensified in response to concerns over potential threats from China.60 At the time, a national security adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe highlighted, “You should expect to see increased bilateral cooperation between us to develop unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and robotics.”61 Going forward, India will confront major challenges in AI development.

Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” seems to have been an impetus and accelerant for indigenous development of new capabilities that seek to leverage this disruptive technology.67 Whereas AI development in the United States and China has advanced through dynamic commercial enterprises, in Russia the Ministry of Defense, along with elements of defense industry, appears to be taking the lead.68 For instance, Russia’s Foundation for Advanced Studies, established in 2012 as a Russian response to DARPA, will be leading a range of new projects involving AI systems, including for image recognition and imitation of the human thought process.69 Given Russia’s recent attempts at influence and information warfare, it is also unsurprising that Russian researchers are looking to leverage AI to enhance these tactics and techniques to further “manipulat[e] the information environment,” which could include the use of fake data to intensify confusion.70 Certain Russian information technology companies, such as Yandex, Mail.ru Group, and a number of AI start-ups, are also investing in commercial applications of AI.71 Reportedly, Russia follows the United States, China, and India to rank fourth in the number of people using Kaggle, a crowdsourcing platform for AI researchers.72 Beyond research efforts, Russia is actively and openly developing weapons systems that will incorporate AI.

For instance, Russia’s Kalashnikov reportedly has been testing a combat module equipped with a machine gun that uses “neural network technologies that enable it to identify targets and make decisions.”73 The robust Russian development of military robotics and unmanned ground vehicles may focus on increasing their autonomy.74 There also are claims that the Armata T-14 “super tank” has an autonomous turret, and that future advances could result in the fielding of fully autonomous tanks.75 Meanwhile, Russia’s Tactical Missiles Corporation is already engaged in work on “AI-guided missiles” with the capability to determine their own direction.76 Russian General Viktor Bondarev, who acts as commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, has confirmed the initial development of AI-guided missiles.77 Although Russian efforts in swarm intelligence don’t appear to be as advanced as those of the United States and China, the CEO of Russia’s Kronstadt Group has predicted that “swarms of drones” will “undoubtedly” take to the skies in future conflicts.78 At the same time, Russia may be attempting to develop an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), called Status-6, as a nuclear delivery vehicle.79 Looking forward, the Russian government’s approach to the legal and ethical issues that will arise with the development of military applications of AI and even lethal autonomous weapons remains questionable.

The Coming Tech War With China

The question now is whether tech firms in the United States, a country that embraces private enterprise and a free economy, will be able to keep up with their Chinese counterparts' breakthroughs.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made developing his country's technological capabilities a key priority, not only to wean China from its dependence on foreign technology but also to turn it into a leader in innovation.

The country has chalked up an array of impressive achievements over the past few years, including its developments inhypersonic missiles, humangene editingtrials and quantum satellites.

As global data collection rates continue to grow exponentially, AI algorithms will inevitably have to take over processing and managing the glut of information.

In 2016 an algorithm running on a Raspberry Pi -- a $35 computer that fits in the palm of your hand -- beat a retired U.S. Air Force colonel every time in a series of simulated dogfights.

The technology's potential for rapid data processing and analysis could give troops on the front lines a more complete picture than ever before of their enemy's position and activities.

AI will probably find more applications in asymmetric warfare, too.Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria have used dronesto deliver explosives to their targets, while Houthi rebels in Yemen havedeployed unmanned vesselsto carry waterborne improvised explosive devices.

Weeks earlier, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a three-year development plan for AI, part of a larger initiative launched in July 2017 that includes specific goals for such technologies asartificial neural network processing chips, intelligent robots,automated vehicles, intelligent medical diagnosis, intelligent drones and machine translation.

China's Ministry of Science and Technology announced in November 2017 that it had formed a sort of dream team made up of the biggest Chinese tech firms --Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent-- to lead the country's AI development alongside voice recognition software developer iFlytek.

Each of these companies is hard at work cultivating the learning algorithms and hardware, and gathering the data, necessary to build a wide range of functional AI platforms.

Given that the country's population exceeds 1.3 billion people -- and that data privacy is a low priority for Beijing -- China offers its AI companies a big leg-up over their U.S. competitors by giving them access to a huge pool of data.

Furthermore, unlike the tightly controlled Soviet economy that hindered innovation, China's hybrid economy offers individuals and companies incentive to push the boundaries in tech development.

For that reason, many U.S. tech firms are trying to withhold some of their advancements from defense applications in hopes of maintaining a competitive edge in the commercial sphere.

The White House's investigations into China's intellectual property policies, calls for greater scrutiny of its foreign investment activities and even proposals to nationalize the fifth generation wireless protocol, or 5G, network are all initial attempts to counter the country's rise in technology.

The dizzying pace and unpredictable trajectory of innovation compels tech companies to constantly broaden their horizons or else jeopardize their competitiveness.

Top 25 Artificial Intelligence Companies

Artificial intelligence has exploded in the past few years with dozens of startup companies and major AI initiatives by big name firms alike.

The New York Times estimates there are 45 AI startups working on chips alone, not to mention the dozens of AI software firms working on machine learning, deep learning and regular AI projects.

AI has diversified into many, many uses and takes on a variety of different forms, from self-driving automobiles to operating Amazon’s Alexa via voice command to AI-powered server configurations.

The leading companies in the AI sector: Please let us know of any significant artificial intelligence companies that you think we missed and leave a note in the Comments section below.

It three products: AICoRE, the AI agent, iRSP, an intelligent robot software platform, and Futurable, a future simulation AI game where every character is a fully autonomous AI.

The focus of their work is to develop artificial intelligence infused with the human skill set of problem solving, learning and memory.

Cozmo has been described as one of the most sophisticated consumer robots to date due to its emotional responses while Overdrive is a car racing game complete with track.

Apple Apple has acquired four artificial intelligence startups within the past two years, demonstrating its big step into the artificial intelligence sphere.

Banjo Raising over $100 million last year, Banjo makes use of artificial intelligence to comb through social media and identify real-time events and situations that are important to its partners.

The startup was developed after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 as a way for companies to analyze social media to make better decisions, move faster, and change the way they understand and interact with people all over the world.

H2O Used by more than 100,000 data scientists at more than 12,600 organizations worldwide, H2O claims to be 'the world's leading open source deep learning platform.'

The company's products include its H2O platform, the Deep Water interface that unites leading open source deep learning tools with H2O, the Sparkling Water framework that combines H2O and Spark, the Steam AI Engine for developers, and Driverless AI, which promises 'AI to do AI.'

Its efforts these days are around IBM Watson, such as a AI-based cognitive service, AI software as a service, and scale-out systems designed for delivering cloud-based analytics and AI services.

It has formed an alliance with seven technology companies from around the world that specialize in gathering different types of health-care data, and will use algorithms to analyze genomic, physiological and behavioral data and provide customized health and medical advice.

Iris AI Iris AI helps researchers sort through scientific work and research to find the relevant information, and as it is used, it learns how to make better searchers.

It recently released Iris.ai 4.0, which adds the Focus tool, an intelligent mechanism to refine and collate a reading list of research literature, cutting out a huge amount of manual effort.

Their latest initiative, which includes a team of 175 data scientists, uses machine learning to help employees more efficiently perform tasks by simplifying and speeding them up.

Twilio Twilio is a cloud communications platform as a service (PaaS) company that allows software developers to integrate text messages, phone calls, and video calls into applications through the use of various APIs.

A while back Twitter introduced a so-called algorithmic timeline that ranked tweets based on relevance instead of the usual reverse chronological order.

It claims it can predict multiple diseases with better-than-human accuracy by examining a huge library of medical images and a specialized examination technology.

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