My Blog of two weeks ago, ‘Aggressive action and existential risks - The Forrester 2018 predictions
’ in Campaign India
, elicited a lot of feedback. I was inundated with comments, questions and opinions. At first I thought that the Report itself was generating much of the interest. But I soon realised that it was not the Report but the implications of the Report that were getting Campaign India
readers all excited. To me, the interesting dimension of the feedback was that most of them who wrote in were not from technical backgrounds. But, they seemed vastly interested in all that was happening in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Suddenly terms like Intelligent Agents from the Forrester Report were being tossed up, discussed and debated.
Based on all of the questions that came my way, I put my research team of one (who else but yours sincerely!) to work. Most of the readers wanted to know more about companies in the AI space that they could learn from, or contact for business.
My first learning from my research has been that AI already has been broken up into different domains, and each of these domains has its own set of leaders. I came across very many lists and compilations of good players in the AI space.
In the Conversational AI/BOTS space, the most interesting companies to my mind are MindMeld, Mobvoi, Automat, KITT.AI, Semantic Machines, Snips, Clara Labs, Maluuba and x.ai. I was fascinated by the simplicity and usefulness of what I saw, for example, on x.ai. I was introduced on their website to Amy and Andrew, who I could engage as my AI personal assistants. All I needed to do was just to cc them on my mails and they would automatically schedule my various meetings allowing me to focus on more meaningful work, like writing my Blog. Once I had connected my calendar and updated my preferences, Amy and Andrew set to work scheduling my meetings with clients, contacts, leads and candidates 24/7. Services of Amy and Andrew are priced at a very affordable US $17 a month, which is really, really inexpensive. I have been using the x.ai free trial offer for the past 10 days now, and I am already a die-hard fan of what AI can deliver … far, far better than any assistant in the office, and that too through the week, on weekends, and 24/7.
In the area of AI in Vision, the best examples I located were Clarifai, Orbital Insight, Captricity, GrokStyle Inc., Pilot AI Labs and Chronocam. On Clarifai, when I visited their site, the AI robot took a picture and then broke it up into its component parts like sunset, water, dawn, dusk, boat, reflection, evening, sea, sky, sun, beach, ocean, lake, person / no-person, landscape, travel, seashore, watercraft, seascape, cloud, etc. and assigned probabilities to the presence of those elements in the picture. Clarifai’s visual recognition model processes used these components of the image in real-time to analyze and predict what was in the initial image used. Clarifai’s API then used all the information to help me find exactly what I was looking for by searching images for visually similar content and products. It served out relevant, image-based product recommendations like holidays and photography equipment. It also connected me to more content based on visual similarity and auto-categorization. Frankly, I was amazed, not just by the experience but by the knowledge at the back of my mind that it was a robot that was doing all of this without any human intervention.
In Auto AI, nuTonomy, AImotive, Drive.ai, Nauto, Nexar and Zoox stood out as leading startups in the domain who are starting to dominate their area of work. Drive.ai, for example, is a Silicon Valley startup founded by former lab mates out of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. They are creating AI software for autonomous vehicles using deep learning, which they believe is the key to the future of transportation. They founded drive.ai because they believed that this technology has the potential to save lives and transform industries, and they think they are the right team to do it. What confidence!
My research on companies in Robotics AI led me to Ubtech, Anki, Dispatch and Rokid Corporation. In the area of Cybersecurity AI, the front-runners by far are Cylance, Sift Science, SparkCognition, Shift Technology, Darktrace and Deep Instinct.
In Business Intelligence & Analytics AI, there was much to choose from. Start-ups in BI AI like DataRobot, Paxata, Trifacta, Context Relevant, Rapidminer, Dataminr, Tamr Inc., CrowdFlower, SigOpt and Logz.io simply stood out for the superlative work they are doing in this still nascent space. I was equally impressed by AI players in Ad Sales and CRM. TalkIQ, Drawbridge, Deepgram, Persado, DigitalGenius, Appier, Chorus.ai, Retention Science and InsideSales.com are really using technology to enhance customer knowledge and customer connect. And, I suppose they do it more cost efficiently, time efficiently and process efficiently. Similarly, I spent a lot of time researching the likes of Textio, Cortical.io, Narrative Science and fido.ai who are leading the parade in Text Analysis/Generation AI. In the field of Commerce AI, BloomReach and mode.ai seemed leaders of the pack and have offerings well-worth understanding and emulating.
Fintech & Insurance AI has Cape Analytics, Numerai, Kensho Technologies, AlphaSense, Inc. and Kasisto as sure leaders.
Though Healthcare AI is not really an area of my understanding, there were many many players to choose from in this vast domain. The likes of Freenome, BenevolentAI, iCarbonX, CloudMedx Inc, Atomwise, Inc, Lunit Inc., Zebra Medical Vision, Deep Genomics, Elitic, Inc., Babylon and twoXAR have built up impressive businesses and are exponentially increasing their capabilities as providers of this new knowledge.
In the area of Core AI, the list of successful players was even longer. Affectiva, CognitiveScale, Scaled Inference, Bonsai, Petuum, Inc., Sentient Technologies, Skymind, Ayasdi, Algorithmia, Voyager Labs, Vicarious Systems, H2O.ai, Loop AI Labs, Numenta, and Digital Reasoning found mention in a lot of lists of top players in that space. Since I was already in an exploratory mode, for future readings, I added Nanit, Verdigris, Sight Machine, KONUX GmbH from IOT/IIOT and the likes of Gigster, Prospera Technologies, Citrine Informatics, Blue River Technology, ROSS Intelligence, Zymergen, Gradescope, Descartes Labs, Talla to list of companies who are striding forward in propelling AI to new frontiers.
A couple of interesting observations. There are loads and loads of Indians in all of these companies. Websites show up a lot of desis with fancy degrees and sparkling CVs. I wonder why these desis have not thought of reaching out to home country with at least some of what they are conceiving and building. More to the point, I wonder why no Indian start-ups or even larger tech companies have not sought technology partnerships or joint-ventures with these super high achievers in this red-hot domain.
Another metric of success that I discovered in my AI research was the Mosaic Score. Mosaic is an algorithm built with funding from the National Science Foundation that gives predictive intelligence into the health of private companies. Much of the data I uncovered on the entities mentioned above was served out basis their Mosaic Scores. Someone in India needs to build a similar scoring system.
There is also a listing of AI 100 companies available. I do not know how accurate it is but Data Collective has backed 14 of the AI 100 companies, while NEA backed 8 and Bloomberg Beta backed 7. There have been 9 mega-rounds (funding rounds of $100M or more) to AI 100 companies since 2014. Five AI 100 companies have reached a valuation of $1B or more (also known as unicorn status). 11 countries are represented among the AI 100 listed companies. Anyone wanting to research the space would find this a good starting point.
AI and Machine Learning are here to stay. Not just because Forrester says so, but also because the start-up world is buzzing with activity which is igniting success and stratospheric funding. I only hope we in India do a quick catch-up. More importantly, it is my fervent hope that the professions of advertising and media in India will wake up to AI and Intelligent Agents before it is too late.
(Sandeep Goyal has been evangelizing technology in advertising and communication since he first set up Mogae Digital in 2005. Over the past decade he has had multiple ventures in the ad-tech and mobile space.)