The year 2016 proved to be an important milestone in the history of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Though the researchers have been working on creating intelligent machines for long, the year 2016 witnessed the concept leaving the realm of science-fiction to become more tangible and realistic.
The year began with the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announcing his plans to build an artificial assistant for his home. As the year proceeded, organisations across the globe started increasingly investing their resources towards the research and development of AI. As the word caught on pace, tech titans including Google, Intel and Apple raced to acquire private companies working to advance artificial intelligence. While Google acquired 11 AI-based startups including api.ai, Microsoft acquired Swiftkeys, the company that brought predictive personal writing to Microsoft handsets. Apple, on the other hand, joined the race by acquiring machine-learning startup Turi.
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As these organisations added strength to their ‘AI arsenal’, Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft announced a historic partnership on AI and machine learning, with the aim was of creating a common platform to conduct research, discuss advancements and promote best practices in the field.
And just when we thought that the year 2016 would be all about endless research, Google and Amazon brought AI into our living rooms with their smart speakers Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo. Catching up the trend was online food delivery app Just Eat, which took a step further in integrating the AI in our lives by adding chatbots to its app to ensure that its customers get ‘the best, round the clock support and service’. However, what truly set the tone straight was AI AlphaGO, that was born out of the marriage between Google and DeepMind, that beat 18-time world Go champion Lee Sedol in a five-game Go match. A machine defeating a human was not only the highlight of the year but also was a reflection of how far the technology had travelled.
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Though Apple maintained a low profile throughout the year in sharing the advancements that it made in the field of artificial intelligence, the updates to Siri along with opening its virtual assistant to the third party developers proved how serious it was about the entire affair. Apple has long lived inside a walled garden, working privately. But with Siri being opened to outside developers, Apple finally embraced the change. Acknowledging the power of free-spirited developers, Google DeepMind too made its AI training platform publicly available. Though some believe that the move was a result of Google’s ambition to overpower Elon Musk’s OpenAI Gym, that was made public in April, it was a major step in the direction of developing a stronger AI nonetheless.
Self-driving car was yet another point of conflict where Google and Musk collided in the field of AI. Several crashes and honks later, Google decided to give more autonomy to its self-driving cars division by making it a full-blown subsidiary of Alphabet– Waymo. Headed by X alumni John Krafcik, the company was charged with turning the self-driving car technology into a viable business. Tesla, on the other hand, proved how it’s miles ahead of the race by adding an auto-pilot mode to its cars and training its self-driving cars to sense accidents and take necessary steps to avoid a possible collision.
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With advanced AI systems like Siri, Jarvis, Alexa already in place, we expect 2017 to be even bigger and better that 2016.