Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘artificial intelligence

Automation Nation

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Happy Tuesday.

On the World Cup schedule today: Sweden vs. Switzerland, and Columbia vs. England.

Meanwhile, it’s back to automation nation. Automation Anywhere, a San Jose, California-based robotic process automation startup has announced it raised $250 million in a funding round led by New Enterprise Associates and Goldman Sachs.

According to a report from Venture Beat, Automation Anywhere’s platform employs software robots, or bots, that make business processes self-running:

Using a combination of traditional RPA and cognitive elements such as unstructured data processing and natural language understanding, the system is able to crunch through tasks that normally take hundreds of thousands of human employees.

As to what the company will do with this new round:

The firm plans to spend the bulk of the new capital on deepening customer engagements in North America, India, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, CEO and cofounder Mihir Shukla said in a statement. It also intends to invest in “specialized” machine learning capabilities and new integrations designed to drive “higher operational efficiency” and “flexibility.”

The company’s CEO, Mihir Shukla, was also quoted in the piece as saying that “We believe our Intelligent Digital Workforce Platform can automate up to 80 percent of [an enterprise’s business processes].

That’s far more than its own customers claim can be automated (20 percent).

Written by turbotodd

July 3, 2018 at 10:07 am

Google’s New News

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Google not own enough of your digital life yet?

If no, try the new Google News on iOS, which the company announced at its I/O devcon last week. 

As reported by The Verge, The new Google News on iOS is similar to the one you’ll find on Android, and centers around using machine learning to train algorithms to comb through complex, fast breaking news stories.

It then breaks them down in easy to understand formats like chronological timelines, local news aggregation, and stories presented in the developing and evolving sequence.

The app is organized into four sections now, the first of which is a “For You” personalized list of the top five stories Google’s software think you’ll want to read alongside a few other algorithmically chosen articles and local news stories.

It also includes other sections focused on core headlines, a favorite section, and the “Newsstand,” which lets you subscribe to news organizations who offer a monthly subscription for web or print access or charge a monthly fee to bypass a web pay wall.

News junkie that I am, I went ahead and downloaded the new version of Google News for iOS (hey, it’s free! Well, other than all that information about myself I’m giving away…), and eerily, the first five headlines “For Me” were pretty much spot on.

While I won’t get into specifics of what the stories were, they involved international affairs, golf, and Japanese whiskey, in that order.

All that news that’s fit to print just  for you, and then some.

Written by turbotodd

May 16, 2018 at 9:42 am

Posted in 2018

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AI Funding and Talent

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I was too busy to blog yesterday, but a couple of stories about AI funding did hit my radar that I wanted to mention.

TechCrunch reported first that a startup out of London, BenevolventAI, announced that it had raised $115 million “to continue developer its core ‘AI brain’ as well as different arms of the company that are using it specifically to break new ground in drug development and more.”

That round values the company at $2.1 billion. 

Some background:

The core of BenevolentAI’s business is focused around what Mulvaney describes as a “brain” built by a team of scientists — some of whom are disclosed, and some of whom are not, for competitive reasons; Mulvaney said: There are 155 people working at the startup in all, with 300 projected by the end of this year. The brain has been created to ingest and compute billions of data points in specific areas such as health and material science, to help scientists better determine combinations that might finally solve persistently difficult problems in fields like medicine.

The crux of the issue in a field like drug development, for example, is that even as scientists identify the many permutations and strains of, say, a particular kind of cancer, each of these strains can mutate, and that is before you consider that each mutation might behave completely differently depending on which person develops the mutation.

This is precisely the kind of issue that AI, which is massive computational power and “learning” from previous computations, can help address. (And BenevolventAI is not the only one taking this approach. Specifically in cancer, others include Grail and Paige.AI.)

Another one that caught my attention was Eightfold.ai, “a new technology service aimed at solving nothing less than the problem of how to provide professional meaning in the modern world.”

Founded by former Googler and IBM researcher Ashutosh Garg (who is a search and personalization expert), the company “…boasts an executive team that has a combined 80 patents and more than 6,000 citations for their research.

What’s more interesting to me is their mission: “To bring the analytical rigor for which their former employers are famous to the question of how best to help employees find fulfillment in the workforce.”

Lightspeed Ventures and Foundation Capital are among those backing the venture to the tune of $24 million.

How it works:

“We have crawled the web for millions of profiles… including data from Wikipedia,” says Garg. “From there we have gotten data round how people have moved in organizations. We use all of this data to see who has performed well in an organization or not. Now what we do… we build models over this data to see who is capable of doing what.”

There are two important functions at play, according to Garg. The first is developing a talent network of a business — “the talent graph of a company,” he calls it. “On top of that we map how people have gone from one function to another in their career.”

Using those tools, Garg says Eightfold.ai’s services can predict the best path for each employee to reach their full potential.

Did you get that? “Building models for the talent graph of a company and how people have gone from one function to another in their career. I’m calling it a Maslowe AI play!

As for how hot the war for AI talent is, check out this New York Time’s article.  It reveals that AI specialists with little or no industry experience can make between $300K and $500K a year in salary and stock. 

Might be time to go back to school!

Written by turbotodd

April 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Robotic Confusion

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Have you watched the new “Lost in Space” series on Netflix?

Danger, Will Robinson!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  It’s good stuff.

But, I must say, I’m now all confused about this whole robotic thing.

Now because of the new Netflix series.  

No, rather, because I keep hearing loads of contradictions about what’s going on with the whole machine versus man convo.

On the one hand, I hear that robots are going to take over the world and leave us mere mortals sitting around in a depressed malaise, complaining about how the robots took all our jobs.

And then on the other, I learn that robots are “riding to the rescue” in Eastern Europe, where severe labor shortages have forced companies to call in the machines.

Perhaps both these things are true, and that’s the real warning about our future?  We just don’t know.

Two stories in particular struck me as resonant with this apparent contradiction.

First, in The New York Times, this headline: Robots Ride to the Rescue Where Workers Can’t Be Found. 

The lede: Fast-growing economies in Eastern Europe have led to severe labor shortages, so companies are calling in the machines.

As reported, despite a roaring economy and a jobless rate of just 2.4 percent, in the Czech Republic the dearth of manpower has limited the ability of Czech companies to expand and nearly a third of them have started to turn away orders.

Jaroslav Hanak, the president of the Czech Confederation of Industry, explained that “It’s becoming a brake on growth…If businesses don’t increase robotization and artificial intelligence, they’ll disappear.”

And apparently this in an Eastern Europe that is already well automated, with around 101 robots for every 10,000 workers.

But then there’s this other story: That Elon Musk is replacing robots at his Tesla factory with humans, saying that “humans are underrated.”

This is the same guy who warned us about the coming AI apocalypse.

But because his Tesla Model 3 production facility is way behind on delivering vehicles to customers who have been waiting for many months, apparently the AI apocalypse is not so close that it will prevent humans from coming in to fix the problem that the machines caused in the first place.

As Musk explained on the “CBS This Morning” show to Gayle King in a recent interview: “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts…And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

And so Musk has now hit “pause” on the Tesla 3 production line to try and resolve those problems with the automation and figure out a way that humans can come in and restart production and, presumably, be more efficient and reach its target of 5,000 cars produced per week by the end of 2018.

As for the robots, they’ll have to get back in their own assembly line and wait to be reassigned.

No danger, Will Robinson.  That is, unless you’re Class B-9-M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot (the Robot’s real name in the original “Lost in Space”).

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 10:40 am

Posted in 2018, AI, robots

Tagged with ,

The Masters: Primed for Some Serious Golf

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It’s Master’s week. 

My favorite time of the year.

And this year’s tournament at “The National” is primed to be a doozy.

Tiger Woods is back, and has already been on the prowl in a couple of recent tournaments.

Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, both lefties with an advantage at Augusta National and previous Masters victors, have won prestigious PGA victories in recent weeks with some fantastic golf.

Rory McIlroy also won recently, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

All these previous winners have been peaking, not to mention Ian Poulter who just snuck in the back door of this year’s tournament by winning last weekend’s Houston Open in a playoff with Beau Hossler. That was, by the way, Poulter’s first stroke-play victory in the U.S. ever.

Jordan Spieth, who led the field in Houston in strokes gained tee-to-green this past weekend, and a previous Master’s winner in 2015. 

Justin Thomas. Won the Honda and is the FedExCup leader going into this week.

My point is, there are some seriously great and motivated golfers heading into this year’s Master’s.

I’m not going to pretend to predict a winner, but if you had me pick a top four at this point, it would probably include Bubba, Phil, Tiger, and Jordan.

But honestly, there’s so many great players playing so well…well that’s why this year’s Masters is primed for some serious golf!

Follow all the action at www.masters.com

Written by turbotodd

April 3, 2018 at 9:57 am

Posted in 2018, golf, masters

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Meet Sarah, Buy Car

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The Wall Street Journal’s “CIO Journal” published an article yesterday detailing Daimler Financial Services’ efforts to explore human digital assistants (Daimler was showing off its efforts this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.)

It’s a fascinating look at the way “human” digital assistants are evolving, and probably just as important, how quickly.  

Udo Neumann is the company’s global chief information officer.

Here are a few snippets detailing Daimler’s progress:

An assistant with a human-like “face,” with instant access to helpful data and programmed to detect how people are feeling and respond accordingly, could help gain customer and employee trust, Mr. Neumann said. “It’s clearly the next step in the development of an evolving technology, (where) emotions come into play.”

Daimler Financial Services, a division of Daimler AG, announced this week it’s partnering with New Zealand startup Soul Machines on a proof-of-concept project to see how a digital assistant with a face and a name could give personalized help to employees and customers.

The companies, which have worked together for several months, are developing a “digital human” built with AI software from IBM Watson that can be programmed to answer questions related to car financing, leasing and insurance, and capabilities to recognize non-verbal cues using face recognition technology.

Neural networking and machine learning tools lets an early version, named Sarah, react to spoken and typed words as well as non-verbal queues such as a loud noise or a nodding head in agreement.

Sarah can be programmed with highly specialized knowledge about, for example, the latest Mercedes models and information about leasing options, said Greg Cross, chief business officer at Soul Machines.

The digital human could eventually act as a “companion” for employees at a call center or training center, he said. For customers, talking to such an avatar might increase purchases among those who feel intimidated by high-pressure sales staff, said Mr. Cross.

So will you one day be buying your next car from a soulful digital assistant like Sarah? 

Never say never…now this baby right over here, you just can’t go wrong. She hits 0-60 in five seconds….!

Written by turbotodd

March 2, 2018 at 10:29 am

Austin’s SparkCognition Sparks $24M Series B

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Austin Inno is reporting that Austin-based AI firm SparkCognition announced today it has completed a Series B funding round of $24 million.

That round builds on an earlier round last June of $32.5 million. 

SparkCognition builds AI solutions for applications in energy, oil and gas, manufacturing, finance, aerospace, defense, and security. Its website currently lists four core product lines which the company claims provides “human intelligence at machine scale.”

Austin Inno observes that SparkCognition’s new funding is “part of a wave of recent investment in Austin-based AI and machine learning companies,” with large rounds going to CognitiveScale, Conversable, Tethr, and Cerebri AI last year, among others.

Written by turbotodd

February 20, 2018 at 10:57 am

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