From the days of Alan Turing’s landmark paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” back in 1950, the promise of Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the Holy Grail for generations of scientists focused on the theory. 

While no machine has yet been built with a human level of intelligence, AI technologies are now maturing to the point where they are less science fiction and more about reality as it begins to intersect our daily lives.

Drones in the military, driverless cars, voice assistants and the rise of robots have grabbed headlines in recent years. Advances in automation are transforming industries including healthcare, transportation and financial services — among many others. This is driving rapid expansion for the AI market. According to US-based market intelligence firm Tractica, the AI market for enterprise will increase from $202.5 million in 2015 to $11.1 billion by 2024.

Big Investments in AI

Tech heavyweights like IBM, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are pioneering the AI space. IBM currently leads in the race to making AI a reality, with over 500 patents related to the theory. IBM’s super computing Watson has become the modern face of AI. Watson can be seen in action across 20 different industries including healthcare, research and development, strategy advisory, and more. IBM has also created an ecosystem of developers — start-ups to further the development of Watson’s applications — which is bound to further spread the use and influence of AI. 

Many of the large technology companies are on an acquisition spree to accelerate the development of AI capabilities. Google’s largest European investment to date was the $400 million acquisition of DeepMind technologies, a company that specializes in machine learning and advanced algorithms. Additionally, they made a big investment in the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (the DFKI), where some 450 scientists work on projects in language technology, augmented reality and embedded intelligence.

AI rates as a priority for companies like Facebook, which is rapidly hiring a team of researchers to focus on a class of AI called deep learning. Deep learning focuses on developing technologies that can analyze videos, identify objects and people in images, and answer questions. Social network's future rests on the ability to understand posts in the news feed and show you things you are truly interested in.

And new startups in AI are proliferating. According to CB Insights, the amount of money invested in AI start-ups soared to $390.2 million last year, up 20 times from 2010. According to estimates from the business analytics firm Quid, AI has drawn more than $17 billion in investments since 2009.

These new AI startups continue to expand the breadth of AI applications. AI startups such as AffectivaVicarious and Sentient tackle progressive technological issues such as emotion analytics, image recognition and data analytics. 

These investments from tech companies are now forcing traditional businesses to wake up. For example, to match Google’s driverless car, Toyota recently announced that it is investing $50 million in partnership with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to research how to develop advanced intelligent systems to recognize, understand and act in complex traffic environments.

AI is Already in Your Life

Whether you realize it or not, AI has already become a part of your everyday life.

Did you know that some of the news you read may not be written by human beings? The Associated Press (AP) has been using AI technology for a majority of US corporate earnings stories for their business news report. Historically a lot of time is spent analyzing numbers from companies to publish over 300 earnings reports each quarter. Using this automated technology, short stories from 150 to 300 words are now created in less time than it previously took reporters. And now they can increase the number of stories from 300 manual stories to over 4,400 automatically each quarter.

Learning Opportunities

Google has been directing a large fraction of its millions of search queries to be interpreted by an AI system, nicknamed RankBrain, signaling for the first time the emerging role of AI in search. The addition of RankBrain into search is part of a half-decade long initiative by Google as the company seeks to embed AI technology into every aspect of its business.

Charles Schwab recently launched a new service called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, which uses sophisticated computer algorithms to decide how to build, monitor and rebalance portfolios. These types of robo-advisors represent a cost-effective, highly accurate way to manage portfolios.

Millions of people are now using and relying on intelligent voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon Echo and Microsoft Cortana and Google Now. While these are still fairly rudimentary ad often feel like a super smart magic eight ball, millions of people are now using and relying on these every day. One day these assistants will play a major role in our daily routine.

These capabilities will quickly evolve as companies like Cycorp take a fresh approach to evolve traditional question-answer AI models to respond to users input based on a wider semantic level understanding. They have assembled the world’s largest knowledge base and commonsense reasoning engine. This will radically change the way we interact with these voice assistants.

AI Collaboration: Man Meets Machine

The real future may be in man joining machine. Human robot interaction is emerging as a more practical, near-term application of AI. Guy Hoffman of the IDC Media Innovation Lab introduced a robot that can compose music independently and also collaborate with other musicians to create a new piece of music. The result is a creative process with lifelike interaction between composer and robot.

In fact, Japanese venture capital firm Deep Knowledge recently became the first company in history to name an AI robot to its board of directors. The robot named Vital finds trends that are not immediately obvious to humans. The recognition that the power of combining human and artificial intelligence will eventually allow Vital to get an equal vote on all financial decisions made at the company.

The evolution of the “conversational model” of AI brings the promise of true interaction of human and machine. Google recently detailed its project on “chatbots” that learn how to respond in conversations based on examples from a training set of dialogue. The model can remember facts, understand contexts and perform common-sense reasoning.

AI is Now

The future for artificial intelligence is finally here. And while it took a little longer than the two decades Turing predicted in 1950, we’re finally on the cusp of that dream.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.