Robot Wars: A Tale of Two AI Heavyweights
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
After decades of being told by Hollywood that machines were going to kill us all, AI has finally arrived — but it’s not what we expected.
In recent years, the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has progressed at a rapid rate. Once confined to the realms of science fiction, these intelligent ‘thinking’ machines are all around us now. However, they don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and they aren’t trying to kill us. In fact. most are just making our lives a little more convenient (for now).
The usual names crop up when thinking of AI industry leaders, namely Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), IBM (NYSE: IBM), et al. Two companies with a lot of experience in AI, albeit in different ways, are Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL). While AI is not the first thing to jump to mind when thinking of these behemoths, there is no denying their investment in creating a system of artificial intelligence to dominate the market for years to come.
The only question left then, is how they are going to use it?
It is no surprise that one of the world’s leading software developers is at the forefront of AI creation. In 2016, the tech giant established the Artificial Intelligence and Research engineering group following a restructuring of the business. In its end-of-year report, AI was listed at the top of the company’s priorities, marking a shift in focus for Microsoft.
In 2018, they took a step further, placing its AI employees in its public cloud project Microsoft Azure while also acquiring further talent such as Bonsai, Lobe and Semantic Machines. It seems they have now added another bullet to the chamber in the form of a visionary leader with years of experience in a competing AI program. We are, of course, talking about Bill Stasior.
Stasior left his position as head of Siri at Apple in May this year and has now been made corporate vice president of technology in the office of the chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, at Microsoft. Formerly the vice president for AI and Siri, Stasior spearheaded the Siri virtual assistant program for Apple.
Microsoft will apply Stasior’s AI experience to its current programs such as Cognitive Toolkit, the company’s deep learning framework which helps describe artificial neural networks, allowing programs to ‘learn’ and expand on performed tasks. The company also provides an AI platform that harnesses a set of application programming interfaces (API’s); this is geared towards the futuristic approach of using speech, language, and vision at the core of the process, streamlining traditional methods.
With all the tools and resources to create a sustainable AI, all Microsoft needed was a leader to head it, and now they have their man. It will be interesting to see if they venture into the virtual assistant program soon with Stasior’s expertise in the field.
In 2002, ‘digital prophet’ Kevin Kelly sat down with two relatively unknown young men to discuss their free to use web search business and questioned how they expected to make any money from this. Their response was simple: “Oh, we’re actually building an artificial intelligence company.”
These two men were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google.
Of course, the legitimacy of this quote has been disputed, but in a world full of technological advancements in mass data and AI, you cannot look past Google and the arsenal of information they have collected in two decades. Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information.” However there is an argument to be made about Google’s secret mission: “To monitor the world’s interactions with the world’s information,” which is how machine learning “learns”!
At its 2018 I/O developer conference, Google shocked the crowd with Duplex, a human-like voice assistant which could make phone calls on behalf of its user. In the year since this display, little more has come from a product which was little more than a fun experiment, yet clearly Google has begun looking into the creation of an AI more like something from the movies, which can portray emotional intelligence; a distinctly human trait.
Google has put a lot of effort into reassuring the public of its ethical approach to AI, but unlike Microsoft and other companies, Google has amassed decades worth of data at an immeasurable scale, which, if applied to programs such as Duplex, could potentially lead to a bonafide emotionally intelligent AI. This thought can be quite disconcerting, and one would hope that Google will keep all of its AI research within the bounds of ethical practice regarding artificial intelligence.
In short, what we have seen are two very different AI programs, with Microsoft opting for the standard machine learning approach with business applications, and Google potentially looking into a more personal, emotionally intelligent form of AI, built on the back of years of collected consumer data.
MyWallSt operates a full disclosure policy. MyWallSt staff currently hold long positions in Alphabet and Microsoft. Read our full disclosure policy here.