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Artificial-Intelligence Race among Countries to strengthen economy and solve societal challenge and among Tech Giants to put intelligence into every user device

On the official website of The White House, the report, dubbed “Preparing for the future of Artificial Intelligence,” authors state that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to help address some of the biggest challenges that society faces.” Smart vehicles may save hundreds of thousands of lives every year worldwide, and increase mobility for the elderly and those with disabilities. Smart buildings may save energy and reduce carbon emissions. Precision medicine may extend life and increase quality of life. Smarter government may serve citizens more quickly and precisely, better protect those at risk, and save money. AI-enhanced education may help teachers give every child an education that opens doors to a secure and fulfilling life. “New artificial intelligence applications will have an impact in various fields, including manufacturing, business, stock market analysis, economic inclusion, criminal justice, environment, transportation, health care and space exploration. Accenture analyzed 12 developed economies and found that AI has the potential to double their annual economic growth rates by 2035.


Artificial intelligence (AI) term was coined by John McCarthy, defined it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. The field was founded on the claim that a central property of humans, intelligence can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. The general problem of simulating (or creating) intelligence has been broken down into a number of specific sub-problems. These consist of particular traits or capabilities that researchers would like an intelligent system to display. These include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing (communication), perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects.


“Remarkable progress has been made on what is known as Narrow AI, which addresses specific application areas such as playing strategic games, language translation, self-driving vehicles, and image recognition. Narrow AI underpins many commercial services such as trip planning, shopper recommendation systems, and ad targeting, and is finding important applications in medical diagnosis, education, and scientific research. These have all had significant societal benefits and have contributed to the economic vitality of the Nation.”


Machine Learning (ML) [a subfield of AI] has now become a pervasive technology, underlying many modern applications including internet search, fraud detection, gaming, face detection, image tagging, brain mapping, check processing and computer server health-monitoring. There is a wide variety of algorithms and processes for implementing ML systems.


General AI (sometimes called Artificial General Intelligence or AGI) refers to a notional future AI system that exhibits apparently intelligent behavior at least as advanced as a person across the full range of cognitive tasks. A broad chasm seems to separate today’s Narrow AI from the much more difficult challenge of General AI. Attempts to reach General AI by expanding Narrow AI solutions have made little headway over many decades of research. The current consensus of the private-sector expert community, with which the NSTC Committee on Technology concurs, is that General AI will not be achieved for at least decades.

 AI race among countries

Compared with other countries, the United States and China are spending tremendous research attention on deep learning.

US third offset strategy

Obama administration has unveiled a new strategic plan aimed at spurring U.S. development of artificial intelligence. The AI R&D Strategic Plan identifies strategic priorities for both near-term and long-term support of AI that address important technical and societal challenges.


The Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy that pursues next-generation technologies and concepts to assure U.S. military superiority is also providing thrust to AI for military applications.  The third offset’s initial vector,  is to exploit all the advances in artificial intelligence and autonomy and insert them into DoD’s battle networks to achieve a step increase in performance that the department believes will strengthen conventional deterrence, said  Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work. “When we say we’re injecting AI and autonomy into the grids, we’re looking at five different things,” the deputy secretary said. These include autonomous learning systems for handling big data and determining patterns, human-machine collaboration for more timely relevant decision making, and assisted human operations through technology assistance like exoskeletons or wearable electronics, he added. Other capabilities, Work said, are advanced human-machine combat teaming such as with manned and unmanned systems working together, and network-enabled autonomous weapons and high-speed weapons like directed energy, electromagnetic rail guns and hypersonics.


China poised to be leader in AI

According to Washington post article by Brian Fung, China has effectively eclipsed US in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject. The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how quickly China’s research priorities have shifted. The quality of China’s research is also striking, as indicated by number of papers that were cited at least once by other researchers, an indication that the papers were influential in the field.

Tencent, based in Shenzhen, in southern China, operates a range of online and mobile services, including the hugely popular social mobile apps WeChat and QQ. The company created its AI lab in April, and it is growing rapidly. Baidu, has had a dedicated AI research lab for several years, and it now regularly publishes fundamental advances.

“China is poised to be a leader in AI because of its great reserve in AI talent, excellent engineering education and massive market for AI adoption,” says Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft and Google executive who is now chief executive of Sinovation Ventures. The firm, formerly known as China’s Innovation Works, has invested $100 million in 25 AI-related startups in the U.S. and China in the past three years.



Japan’s advancements in artificial intelligence could soon have an impact on everyday government operations. Japan’s plan to use AI for state purposes is part of the strategy for a “fourth industrial revolution,” a central part of the government’s economic growth plan, according to the Yomiuri.

One Japanese insurance company, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with “IBM Watson Explorer,” starting by January 2017. The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.



Researchers in Germany are developing software that uses machine learning to predict the amount of energy generated by renewables over the next few days. This early warning system, called EWeLiNE, was modelled after a similar program in the U.S.

In 2015, neuroscientists in Germany have brought vision of dexterous robots a step closer to reality, predicting and recording the hand positions of monkeys, and then uploading them to a robotic hand.

The scientists used electrodes to monitor the monkeys’ brain activity as they gripped the objects, focusing on the cerebral cortex – the outer layer of the brain that plays an important role in memory, language and perceptual awareness. By comparing the monkeys’ brain cell activity to their hand movements, the researchers could predict the different grasping movements by looking at the neural signals alone. They then transferred the registered signals to a robotic hand, ‘teaching’ it fine motor skills.

“The results of our study are very important for the development of neural-controlled prosthetic hands,” says Stefan Schaffelhofer at the German Primate Center. “They show where and especially how the brain controls grasping movements.”


Race among Tech Giants

AI is shaping up to be one of hottest areas of innovation. Apple, Google, and Microsoft have already bet big on artificial intelligence with mobile personal assistants (Siri, Google Voice, and Cortana respectively). Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Samsung are all investing heavily in this area — building giant teams of data scientists internally and through acquisitions.



Google made headlines when its AlphaGo AI machine beat a South Korean grandmaster at the chess-like game of Go. Google Assistant software is being built into new Pixel handsets — aiming to outdo Apple’s Siri — enabling users to organize and use information on the devices and in the cloud — to check emails, stay up to date on calendar appointments, news or ask for traffic and weather data. Google invests in AI for various purposes; Gmail exemplifies how machine learning can be integerated with popular app, that billions of people use every day. Google’s self-driving car project, now a separate company called Waymo.

“Research at Google is at the forefront of innovation in Machine Intelligence, with active research exploring virtually all aspects of machine learning, including deep learning and more classical algorithms. Exploring theory as well as application, much of our work on language, speech, translation, visual processing, ranking and prediction relies on Machine Intelligence,” says Google. In all of those tasks and many others, we gather large volumes of direct or indirect evidence of relationships of interest, applying learning algorithms to understand and generalize.



In 2014, Amazon launched its Echo home assistant. The gadget is a voice-activated speaker that runs Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence software. Users can use Alexa to order goods from the online retail giant as well as ask for news or information updates. Echo also works as a connected-home hub able to control light bulbs, compatible appliances and other devices. Since unveiling Echo, Amazon integrated Alexa into its Fire TV devices and launched a smaller version called Dot.

Amazon has launched of its new Amazon AI platform that brings many of the machine learning smarts Amazon has developed in-house over the years to devs outside the company. Amazon AI services bring natural language understanding (NLU), automatic speech recognition (ASR), visual search and image recognition, text-to-speech (TTS), and machine learning (ML) technologies within reach of every developer. Amazon Lex make it easy to build sophisticated text and voice chatbots, powered by Alexa. Amazon Rekognition provides deep learning-based image recognition. Amazon Polly turns text into lifelike speech, and Amazon Machine Learning allows you to quickly build smart ML applications.



AI is “the thing that is going to be in the internet, it’s going to be in every device”, Satya Nadella took over as chief executive said. “Every product we design, and how every user is going to interact with the environment, is going to be ‘intelligence first’.”

Microsoft’s personal assistant called Cortana was unveiled in 2014. It comes pre-installed on its Xbox console and Windows devices, as well as an application on Android and Apple iOS devices. Cortana interacts with conversationally spoken commands and requests and is able to respond in a manner akin to a real-life assistant.



The giant social network Facebook is one of the companies that have heavily investing in artificial intelligence. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently published a detailed year-end update on his personal challenge to build simple AI to run his home. Ultimately, according to LeCun, Facebook has one goal with respect to AI, and that is to understand intelligence and build intelligent machines. “That’s not merely a technology challenge, it’s a scientific question,” he wrote. “What is intelligence and how can we reproduce it in machines?

Facebook’s Messenger mobile application enables AI bots. It is also speculated that the company is working on a personal assistant codenamed “M.” Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the social network, has stated that he plans to create a real-life version of “Jarvis,” the fictional assistant in the “Iron Man” Marvel Comics series.



Apple introduced its Siri digital assistant for the iPhone in 2011, being the first to offer an AI personal assistant. Since Siri was launched, the company has been continuously working to improve it over the years. Recently, the AI personal assistant Siri was upgraded to interact with non-Apple applications. Apple also introduced a Home application that is working on a standalone speaker similar to Google Home and Amazon Echo and can connect with smart appliances.



Technology giant company IBM is involved in AI research since nearly 20 years ago. Its “Deep Blue” software was able to win against world chess champion Garry Kasparov. More recently IBM’s “Watson” artificial intelligence supercomputer won against human players in a Jeopardy television game show. IBM’s Watson has already real-life applications, helping to make business systems and services smarter



The South Korean high-tech company moved to support its AI efforts by acquiring the U.S. startup Viv Labs. According to Samsung, the purchase announced this month is part of its effort to develop AIbased voice assistance services for its customers. Samsung aims to provide these AI services across all its devices and products, from washing machines to televisions and smartphones.

BK Yoon, president and chief executive of consumer electronics at the Korean group, said Samsung’s ultimate goal is to be able to “read the minds” of its customers, with products that anticipate their needs.



MIT Technology Review listed Baidu as No. 2 on its list of the 50 smartest companies in 2016, after The editors cited the Chinese company’s AI work, particularly in speech recognition, where it’s teaching its system to process spoken words sometimes more accurately than people can.

Baidu said that its speech-recognition software performed three times faster than humans for English language, with a lower error rate, in a joint experiment the company did with Stanford University pitting the software against 32 people typing text on smartphones.

Beyond optimizing its search engine and enhancing its ability to recognize voice, Baidu also is applying AI to automobiles, aiming to mass-produce a driverless car in five years

China’s biggest search engine — introduced an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot,  Melody the medical assistant to connect with patients, field medical questions and suggest diagnoses to doctors. The bot is designed to be the first port of call for a person feeling sick at home. A patient poses a health query to Melody, which responds in real time with further questions, and compares responses with Baidu’s database of medical information. All that data gets crunched, and Melody then poses a possible diagnosis to a doctor who can then recommend next steps.

Baidu has developed advanced deep learning and natural language processing technologies to power Melody’s artificially intelligent “brain.”




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