The State of Artificial Intelligence in 15 Visuals
Pretty much every cinematic portrayal of artificial intelligence has been less than encouraging. HAL 9000 kills the crew members on the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, making us all a little bit afraid of handing the reins over to computers. Sonny kills his creator in I, Robot, increasing worldwide scepticism about the integration of humans and their smart robots. And things don’t fare much better in many other products of Hollywood, like Tron, The Matrix, Blade Runner, and Terminator. Even real life AI has given us pause. For example, when an IBM computer defeated Russian chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in the 1990s, it was definitely a cause for concern.
For the most part, though, AI has been more accepted in everyday practice. That’s probably because it hasn’t taken the form of a dark robot overlord, but instead exists as a convenience, and one that we’re becoming increasingly dependent upon. These include smart home components that learn your preferences, any recommendations based on things you already like or have purchased (like on Amazon or Netflix), and of course, digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.
Despite some bad PR from popular movies, AI is actually a growing field — and this is something that the average consumer may not realise. What’s the current state of AI, and where is the field going?
Check out the infographic below, backed by Venture Scanner data.
The below infographic is based on data and analysis from Venture Scanner, an analyst and technology powered startup research firm. To access the full dataset, visit: https://www.venturescanner.
Virtual personal assistants may be the first thing most people think of when AI is mentioned, but the sector actually consists of over a dozen categories.
For example, all of those gesture control capabilities on your favourite devices that you think is just so cool? That’s considered AI, as are things like automatic speech recognition, content aware functionality, and any machine or device that can learn what its owner likes.
Facial recognition software, which currently confounds many users on Facebook, is also a big part of AI; including this capability as part of AI makes more and more sense the longer you think about it. Plus, there are also categories that maybe don’t have a lot of visibility just yet — smart robots comes to mind — but carry with them a ton of potential (see Can These Elderly-Care Robots Make a Difference in Geriatrics?.)
Artificial Intelligence, Real Funding
The thought of hearing HAL 9000 sing “Daisy” in an increasingly slow voice may send chills down our spines, but it does not seem to be hindering the money being pumped into AI research and development.
Funding for AI by year has been steadily increasing, going from under $200 million USD in 2010 to around $600 million in 2013 to $1.2 billion in 2015. The first quarter of 2016 already saw over $400 million going toward AI, putting the year on par with 2015 of even poised to surpass it.
As for which categories are seeing the most venture capital, machine learning is far and away the winner, with over $2 billion in funding to date. This isn’t a total shock; in April 2016, in a letter to shareholders, CEO Sundar Pichai lauded machine learning as the real future of AI and computing.
Natural language processing, the second-most funded category, has less than a third of that amount, and the numbers continue to drop off from there. According to these numbers, it would appear that the market for machine learning would be about to explode (and it might), but it also frees up space for other categories to start landing the big money from venture capitalists.
AI: Areas of Focus
Not surprisingly, the machine learning category has the largest number of companies (263 as of this writing), in addition to having the largest amount of funding. Most other categories have fewer than 100 companies, while really small categories like gesture control and speech to speech translation have considerably fewer.
Why is this? Aside from Pichai’s proclamation, machine learning is perhaps the holy grail of personal computing: a machine that learns how to do things better on its own and without continual input. And again, despite the catastrophic consequences of machine learning that’s depicted in movies like War Games, it is proving to be quite useful, as users of Nest Learning Thermostats and many other learning devices can attest.
Largely American AI Companies
In the field of Artificial Intelligence, the USA leads the pack. The country has almost 500 companies involved in some sort of AI development — substantially more than any other country. For comparison, the country with the second most AI companies is the UK, and it has just 60.
Funding for AI is also predominantly American, a fact that isn’t surprising given the overwhelming number of American AI companies. The US has funded AI to the tune of over $4 billion USD, much more than second place Switzerland at $234 million.
AI Companies Size – Mostly Small
We may think of tech companies as industrial behemoths, cities unto themselves and employing thousands of people. Think Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, IBM — they’re all massive. In the world of AI, however, that’s simply not the case.
Just how small are Artificial Intelligence companies? Remarkably so: 90% of the companies in the AI field have fewer than 50 employees each. What’s more, more than 50% of them have ten or fewer employees. While one or two are larger, keeping several hundred people working toward a single mission, this is a field that seems best suited for small groups rather than large organisational structures.
Prepare For Robot Overlords?
It’s become sort of a joke, so, ha ha, but no, humans won’t be overtaken by their AI creations anytime soon — and it’s had some time to try to do just that. In fact, even though it seems like a relatively new concept, AI research and development has been around since the 1950s; the term “artificial intelligence” itself was coined at the now infamous Dartmouth Conference in 1956.
Given the funding and upstart young companies forging their way across the AI frontier, the future for this tech sector looks good. Whether you’re content with just asking Siri the occasional question or eagerly anticipate the day when robots walk among us, one thing is all but certain: AI will assume an increasingly large presence in our lives in the coming years.
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Data by Venture Scanner