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How Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are investing in AI

Artificial Intelligence is a big deal. Companies keep investing money in this technology to leverage their offer and serve the customers better.

As usual, the industry giants are at on the frontline, researching ways on how to gain competitive advantage and come up with brand-new products and services. We have prepared an overview of the biggest names in the world of technology and their investment in AI.

Google

Google has a long history with AI and plans to evolve into the “AI-first world”, as per the company’s CEO Sundar Pichaim.

Back in 2014, Google bought a DeepMind startup for $400 million. This company offers a range of AI-powered solutions, from image and speech recognition to simulating a human being in video games.

We see Google using AI in a number of routine tasks: suggested replies in Gmail and advanced search algorithms. In addition to that, the company recently introduced its Machine Learning system TensorFlow and made it free for any developer to use.

Then we have Google Assistant and Duplex. Google Assistant is a virtual assistant (similar to Alexa, Cortana, or Siri) that helps users solve their everyday tasks in a more efficient and faster manner. It is supported by a bunch of devices (Sonos speakers, Samsung smart TVs, Philips Hue) and is one of the most widely used AI solutions these days.

As for Duplex, it is an AI-driven voice that helps users set up business appointments via Google Assistant. All the user needs to do is ask Google Assistant to book a restaurant for a certain date and Duplex will take care of it. To make it sound more human-like, the developers even added the “um” and pauses in the speech.

Because Duplex went live this year only, the only feature it offers is restaurant booking but developers, of course, are planning to expand the functionality.

One last thing about Google and AI is the latest PAIR initiative. PAIR stands for People + AI Research and aims to make the partnership with AI as enjoyable and beneficial as possible. It is basically a research center and it may bring some really interesting results in the near future.

Facebook

We all know that Facebook was the pioneer of facial recognition, which is totally AI-powered. So what else this social media behemoth has been up to in terms of AI?

Unfortunately, not much. While Amazon and Google have been actively researching and realizing their AI projects, Facebook was stuck somewhere in the middle of planning. The company wants to come up with a virtual assistant of its own and implement AI in a number of processes, like content monitoring and administration.

This year, Facebook invested $7.5 million in AI Ethics Institute in Germany, Munich. Considering a number of issues that AI brings (ethical and regulatory), this seems like a smart investment. However, Elon Musk said that Zuckerberg’s knowledge of AI is “limited” so it seems like Facebook has a lot to catch on if the company really wishes to join the AI race.

Microsoft

Microsoft is among the companies that have been investing heavily into AI.

We can start with Microsoft Research AI, which is an organization, founded by Microsoft and focused on AI research and development. Because the company already deploys AI in its processes (Skype chatbots, data analysis, interaction with Cortana, etc.), no wonder Microsoft plans to grow in this direction and expand its use of AI.

Apart from that, Microsoft has been launching its AI-driven tools through Azure cloud computing service and working on AI implementation into Office 365.

BY 2018, Microsoft acquired five AI tech companies. Its latest acquisition was XOXCO: a software product design and development studio.

All in all seems like Microsoft takes the Artificial Intelligence technology beyond serious and plans to offer real value for the Microsoft product users.

Amazon

Amazon is one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the world so no wonder it was among the first to get a grip on AI.

The first thing that comes to the mind if we speak about Amazon and AI is Alexa. This is another virtual assistant that is supported by Amazon Echo Dot speakers and can set your alarm, send notifications, and interact with you via voice.

But because Amazon is all about e-commerce, recently it rolled out the Alexa Shopping feature. Now, shoppers can order from Amazon with the help of Alexa. The assistant can place the items in the cart, remove them, track their status and notify about delivery. And since voice shopping is predicted to hit $40 million by 2020, Amazon made a really smart move.

Another big thing that Amazon did was implementing ML to their AWS. The features include:

An interesting fact about Amazon and AI is the approach the company takes towards technology. They call it a flywheel and that implies constant storage of knowledge and its even distribution across the company. So one can say Amazon is a truly AI-driven business that gets the most out of AI.

Apple

From the first sight, seems like Apple got everything covered.

We have Siri, which is among the top most used virtual assistants in the world. We have facial recognition, which is fun to play with and adds to security. As well, Apple uses AI to detect fraud and optimize the use of battery and overall seems like an equal rival to the competitors.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. First, Apple does not invest in AI as much as Google or Amazon do. Second, Apple follows a very local approach, with its CreateML framework running on iOS devices only while most of the companies train their ML models in the cloud.

While such an approach has its fans, many industry experts believe that an experienced developer will opt for TensorFlow by Google rather than CreateML due to the lack of features of the latter.

Conclusion

With the biggest companies taking interest in AI, it’s time for the mid-sized and small companies to follow along. AI has become not a luxury but a must-have technology for those companies that wish to grow in a steady manner and keep up with the changing business environment.

Written by Natalia Kukushkina

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