AI On The Rise: Big Investments Pour for R&D as AI Turns Sci-Fi to Reality


With consumers increasingly grasping the idea of having computers carry out tasks reserved for humans, artificial intelligence is on the rise. Although conversing with a realistic robot creeps many out, AI has transcended from just merely mimicking the image and the way a person speaks to profoundly looking at human responses, logical reasoning and creativity.

The human brain is computer science’s Mt. Everest. Once also only a dream, we’ve seen how determined mountaineers were able to summit the highest peak in the planet. Could this be an indication that the impossibility that once loomed artificial intelligence can finally touch base with reality? The quest continues as big names walk the talk and gamble investments on AI.

Facebook Founders on AI Research

Good Ventures LLC, together with Facebook founders, PayPal, Napster mean serious artificial intelligence business as they put together a whopping $15 million to fund Vicarious’ search for the key to AI. A pretty hefty sum for a Union City startup, the money will not aid commercialization, but will heavily support R&D instead. Vicarious uses advanced computational principles to build and create software that has the human-like ability to think and learn. While they are going up against the big players that include HP, IBM, Google and Apple, some considers this local newbie to be a game-changer.

In the official press release, the investors expressed confidence in Vicarious and how they support the company’s good cause:

“The technology that Vicarious is developing has the potential to improve all lives and revolutionize every industry. Even the intermediate technologies Vicarious creates en route to artificial intelligence will be immensely impactful,” said Mr. Moskovitz, who will be joining Vicarious’s board of directors. “It’s essential that the right people bring this technology into the world,” added Cari Tuna, president of the Good Ventures Foundation and Mr. Moskovitz’s fiancée. “Scott and Dileep share our mission to help humanity thrive, and we’re deeply grateful for their efforts.”

Early last year, the launch of Vicarious Systems has summoned attention as they presented a technology that was able to interpret photos and videos the way human beings do. In their Bloomberg interview, co-founders Scott Brown and Dileep George explained how they are planning to revolutionize not only the AI industry, but other sectors like healthcare, manufacturing and retail.

AI on Branches of Science

A $400,000 grant over a course of five years will be given to Computer Science Assistant Professor Matthew E. Taylor by the Faculty Early Career Development Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his artificial intelligence researches. Included in the award are travel privileges to expose his studies in the international scene. He will be supported by students in developing codes, running experiments and writing the papers.

From computer science to the laboratories artificial intelligence has been opening broader opportunities for geneticists to find solutions to old problems in genetic-related diseases. Scientists demonstrated a system that utilizes AI and avant-garde image processing to rapidly evaluate large numbers of nematodes. This AI-powered worm sorting scheme can identify genetic mutations without human intervention.

“While humans are very good at pattern recognition, computers are much better than humans at detecting subtle differences, such as small changes in the location of dots or slight variations in the brightness of an image,” said Hang Lu, the project’s lead researcher and an associate professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This technique found differences that would have been almost impossible to pick out by hand.”

Google on Driverless Car

Eric Schmidt’s idea of self-driving cars is fast becoming a reality. What lingered in many people’s imaginations for so long is unfolding at a record pace. In May, the then-science fiction was given license by the state of Nevada in May. Two weeks ago, Google’s driverless cars successfully complete 300K miles without accident on a secret racecourse, and is now deemed to be ready for commuting.

Known for ambitious plans like high-tech glasses and smoking-fast fiber network, how much Google is spending on experiments and manpower to push driverless cars onto the mainstream may not be revealed, but obviously enormous. But, the recent favorable results and reviews make all the investments seem laudable. However, Consumer Watchdog is against Google driverless cars hitting the U.S. highways unless adequate privacy protections’ bill for users will be legislated. A parcel of the appeal to California Legislature reads:

“You may remember the last time Google deployed high tech vehicles around the world.  The result was Wi-Spy, the biggest wire-tapping scandal in history when the company’s Street View cars sucked up data from tens of millions of private Wi-Fi networks, including emails, health information, banking information, passwords and other data.”

AI on the wheels’ craze is not only happening in the United States, Europe has also jumped into the bandwagon via a convoy system currently being developed in Sweden, that would slave a string of cars to the direction of the professional drivers leading the pack.

With the industries globally digging driverless cars, along with pilotless aircrafts, space robots like Curiosity and unmanned submarines, it could be that we are witnessing the dawn of the new age in transportation market. Is this really the future? Isn’t this quite scary? Isn’t this the coolest things ever, having to do tons of things other than driving on a road trip? How will the traffic situation and rules change? The next few months and years and intensive researches will have the answer.