Artificial intelligence is growing and, like it or not, machine learning is going to play a major part in our technological future. The biggest and best companies in the world know this already, and they are investing heavily in AI.
Here’s our list of the top 15 most important AI companies that have the power and resources to shape our connected futures. These are the big players in AI right now.
Retail goliath, Amazon, has invested in both the consumer-orientated side of AI, as well as applications for its own business and processes. Alexa, the company’s AI voice assistant built into its Echo speaker range, is well known but AWS, a set of set of machine learning and pre-trained AI services for business is not quite as famous. AWS currently has more than 10,000 customers including Siemens, Netflix, Tinder, the NFL and NASA.
Apple has been busy acquiring AI startups over the past couple of years and clearly sees artificial intelligence as a critical part of its future. In December 2018, the company officially named John Giannandrea as its head of artificial intelligence and machine learning after poaching the Scottish computer scientist from Google. He will oversee the development of products such as Siri, as well as the company’s new Create ML tool, which lets macOS and iOS developers create simple, efficient machine learning training for their apps.
Banjo was born in the wake of the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The startup uses AI to search through social media to identify real-time events and situations that could be key for emergency services and other organizations, allowing them to move faster and more intelligently. The company raised more than $120 million in funding so far, with investors like Japanese telecoms giant, SoftBank.
The first Chinese company on our list, DJI, is a startup that is already valued at $15 billion. The company has more than 70% market share of the global drone market and is moving into AI at an increasing rate. It’s latest drones use AI and image recognition to avoid objects. Word on the street is that these guys are going to get into autonomous vehicles and robotics very soon. DJI recently partnered with Microsoft on a real-time drone to computer streaming project.
Artificial intelligence is going to be huge in the future, so it comes as no surprise to see Facebook investing in AI. The Facebook AI Research Group, known as FAIR, says it is committed to advancing the field of machine intelligence and are creating new technologies to give people better ways to communicate. Mark Zuckerberg and co. were also working on a negotiating platform using two AI’s named Alice and Bob, but scrapped the project after the pair started communicating in their own, secret language.
Perhaps the biggest and most important AI company on this list is also the most obvious. Google has been acquiring AI startups like they are going out of fashion. In the last four years, Mountain View has snapped up no fewer than 12 artificial intelligence companies. The stand out purchase was the $400 million deal for DeepMind, the strategy board-game playing ‘Go’ champion. There is also the Google-owned machine system, TensorFlow, now free to everyone, and the ongoing Tensor AI chip project for on-device machine learning. Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, has previously stated that in the long run, we are “evolving in computing from a 'mobile-first' to an 'AI-first' world,” and that tells you all you need to know about where Google thinks the future lies.
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When Huawei CEO, Richard Yu, unveiled the Kirin 980 at IFA 2018 in Berlin, a lot of big claims were made. The chip manufacturing arm of Huawei, HiSilicon, has created what the Chinese brand was calling the world’s first AI smartphone chip. The Kirin 980 can deal with things such as face recognition, object recognition, object detection, image segmentation and intelligent translation all at high speeds. The chip kick-started a flurry of AI smartphone chips coming to the market, and if any company is going to advance the technology in the next couple of years, it will probably be this one.
Multinational tech firm IBM has been involved in AI since the 1950s. The company was there at the very birth of artificial intelligence and is still involved heavily today. With Watson, IBM has created a machine learning platform that can integrate AI into business processes such as building a chatbot for customer support. Clients include Big Four auditor, KPMG, and Bradesco, one of Brazil’s largest banks.
Intel has also been on a shopping spree when it comes to artificial intelligence companies, acquiring both Nervana and Movidius, as well a selection of fresh AI startups. Nervana allows businesses to develop custom deep learning software, whilst Movidius is designed to bring AI applications to devices at ultra-low power. Intel is also working with Microsoft to provide AI acceleration for the Bing search engine.
Like Amazon, Microsoft is involved in artificial intelligence on both the consumer and business sides of things. In direct competition with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant there is Cortana - Microsoft’s AI digital assistant. Artificial intelligence features are all a big part of the company's Azure cloud service, which provides chatbots and machine learning services to some of the biggest names in business. Microsoft also bought five AI companies in 2018.
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Nvidia is another of those long-standing AI companies that remains a major player today. Nvidia GPUs are the go-to for machine learning and artificial intelligence. The Delaware-based company is involved in everything from healthcare to higher education to retail and robotics. It’s latest deep learning and GPU development is looking at integrating AI into every level of vehicle design, manufacturing and driving for autonomous vehicles.
The non-profit research group is all about developing AI for the benefit of humanity as a whole and has managed to hold onto its open source mentality despite large amounts of money pouring in through investments and some going out via acquisitions. Some of the biggest names in AI are currently working at OpenAI, including deep learning expert, Ilya Sutskever. Sponsors include Microsoft, Amazon and Elon Musk.
Like HiSilicon with its Kirin 980, Qualcomm is another chip manufacturer that is going big on artificial intelligence. With its Snapdragon 855 mobile platform, artificial intelligence plays a key role. The chip uses what Qualcomm is calling a Hexagon audio DSP, a dedicated space for AI voice, audio and vision features. Qualcomm Snapdragons power some of the most popular smartphones on the market, such as those from Samsung. If it’s AI in your smartphone you’re excited about, Qualcomm is a company to keep an eye on.
You’ve heard about the Chinese government using facial recognition to track citizens, right? Well, SenseTime is the current supplier of that tech. Its research team is investigating deep learning at the University of Hong Kong and its image-recognition technology is renowned for being way ahead of what Google and Facebook have up their sleeves. Autonomous driving is next on the list for SenseTime, and with the financial backing in place from several rounds of venture capital, you wouldn’t put it past them to be a leader in self-driving cars in the future.
Like the other big players in Silicon Valley, Twitter is going about getting into artificial intelligence by throwing money at it. Four AI companies have already been snapped up, with Magic Pony for $150 million the most notable. The Australian company develops machine-learning based approaches for visual processing on web and mobile, and its likely that Twitter will improve its systems for recommending certain tweets in users' timelines with the help of AI in the future.
Any companies that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.