May 5, 2016
The article on MotherBoard titled Why the US Is Buying Up So Many UK Artificial Intelligence Companies surveys the rising tech community in the UK. There is some concern about the recent trend in UK AI and machine learning startups being acquired by US giants (HP and Autonomy, Google and DeepMind, Microsoft and Swiftkey, and Apple and VocalIQ.) It makes sense in terms of the necessary investments and platforms needed to support cutting-edge AI which are not available in the UK, yet. The article explains,
“And as AI increasingly becomes core to many tech products, experts become a limited resource. “All of the big US companies are working on the subject and then looking at opportunities everywhere—“…
Many of the snapped-up UK firms are the fruits of research at Britain’s top universities—add to the list above Evi Technologies (Amazon), Dark Blue Labs (Google), Vision Factory (also Google) that are either directly spun out of Cambridge, Oxford, or University College London…”
The results of this may be more positive for the UK tech industry than it appears at first glance. There are some companies, like DeepMind, that demand to stay in the UK, and there are other industry players who will return to the UK to launch their own ventures after spending years absorbing and contributing to the most current technologies and advancements.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 5, 2016
April 20, 2016
Computer software has progressed further and keeps advancing faster than we can purchase the latest product. Software is now capable of holding simple conversations, accurately translating languages, GPS, self-driving cars, etc. The one thing that that computer developers cannot program is human thought and reason. The New York Times wrote “Taking Baby Steps Toward Software That Reasons Like Humans” about the goal just out of reach.
The article focuses on Richard Socher and his company MetaMind, a deep learning startup working on pattern recognition software. He along with other companies focused on artificial intelligence are slowly inching their way towards replicating human thought on computers. The progress is slow, but steady according to a MetaMind paper about how machines are now capable of answering questions of both digital images and textual documents.
“While even machine vision is not yet a solved problem, steady, if incremental, progress continues to be made by start-ups like Mr. Socher’s; giant technology companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google; and dozens of research groups. In their recent paper, the MetaMind researchers argue that the company’s approach, known as a dynamic memory network, holds out the possibility of simultaneously processing inputs including sound, sight and text.”
The software that allows computers to answer questions about digital images and text is sophisticated, but the data to come close to human capabilities is not only limited, but also nonexistent. We are coming closer to understanding the human brain’s complexities, but artificial intelligence is not near Asimov levels yet.
April 18, 2016
I read “Bing Just Became the Best Search Engine for Developers.” I was surprised that the word “operators” was left out of the headline. DevOps has become a rallying cry for many. According to the write up:
Almost always as developers we end up on Stack Overflow or Mozilla Developer Network, but now Microsoft’s Bing has given us something even better: executable code directly in search results.
I noted this statement:
Thanks to a collaboration with HackerRank, if you search for something like
string concat C#, you’ll get an interactive code editor with a result that can be run directly from that page to see how it works.
My thought is that Bing is nosing into new territory. Is it possible that there could be some unforeseen consequences along the lines of the Microsoft Tay chatbot? Nah, Microsoft would not provide a function that might compromise a searcher’s computer.
Stephen E Arnold, April 18, 2016
April 15, 2016
The article on eWeek titled Microsoft Debuts Azure Basic Search Tier relates the perks of the new plan from Microsoft, namely, that it is cheaper than the others. At $75 per month (and currently half of for the preview period, so get it while it’s hot!) the Basic Azure plan has lower capacity when it comes to indexing, but that is the intention. The completely Free plan enables indexing of 10,000 documents and allows for 50 megabytes of storage, while the new Basic plan goes up to a million documents. The more expensive Standard plan costs $250/month and provides for up to 180 million documents and 300 gigabytes of storage. The article explains,
“The new Basic tier is Microsoft’s response to customer demand for a more modest alternative to the Standard plans, said Liam Cavanagh, principal program manager of Microsoft Azure Search, in a March 2 announcement. “Basic is great for cases where you need the production-class characteristics of Standard but have lower capacity requirements,” he stated. Those production-class capabilities include dedicated partitions and service workloads (replicas), along with resource isolation and service-level agreement (SLA) guarantees, which are not offered in the Free tier.”
So just how efficient is Azure? Cavanagh stated that his team measured the indexing performance at 15,000 documents per minute (although he also stressed that this was with batches organized into groups of 1,000 documents.) With this new plan, Microsoft continues its cloud’s search capabilities.
Chelsea Kerwin, April 15, 2016
April 8, 2016
I read “Microsoft Launches Cognitive Services Based on Project Oxford and Bing.” I immediately thought of MIcrosoft’s smart chatbot adventure. Do I doubt the efficacy of Microsoft’s smart systems? No, I just think that the same approach manifested in Tay probably exists in the suite of APIs announced on March 30, 2016.
The brand name Cognitive Services is a nod to IBM’s Watson, which for the past few years has been marketed as a “cognitive computing” product — that is, one that’s based on the way the human brain works.
That is working out very well for IBM. There is a recipe book and many projects. Revenues? Well, sure. Some.
Microsoft offers a search API. That, one hopes, will actually work reasonably well. Microsoft’s track record in the information access department has been interesting.
According to this Microsoft page, there are give search APIs which are available for preview. Use is like a taxi ride, and that type of metered pricing is often unsettling.
The five APIs are:
- Bing Autosuggest
- Bing Image Search
- Bing News Search
- Bing Video Search
- Bing Web Search.
I assume one can mix in academic knowledge, entity linking, and knowledge exploration. In addition, it appears thate is a language understanding intelligent service called Luis. I noted linguistic analysis as an API as well. And for good measure, one can tap text analytics.
For a developer, these Lego blocks offer an opportunity to code up a solution.
On the other hand, there are goodies from outfits from Baidu to Facebook, from Google to X.ai from which to choose.
Just as IBM is saddled with the Jeopardy and recipe book, Microsoft is going to have to live with Tay’s capabilities.
What happens if Tay works into a routine search query? That will be intriguing. Perhaps Tay and Watson can get together and do smart thing?
Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2016
April 3, 2016
I am looking forward to artificial intelligence adventures. I got a bang out of the Google self driving auto running into a bus. I chuckled when I learned that a Microsoft AI demo went off the rails.
If you want to know what happened, I suggest you scan “Poor Software QA Is Root Cause of TAY-FAIL (Microsoft’s AI Twitter Bot).” The write up works through many explanations.
The reason, however, boils down to lousy quality assurance. I would suggest that this explanation is not unique to Microsoft. Why did those construction workers demolish the house that was A OK? I wonder how one can get Microsoft’s smart auto numbering to work.
Stephen E Arnold, April 3, 2016
April 2, 2016
First there was Microsoft and the Tay “learning” experiment. That worked out pretty well if you want a case example of what happens when smart software meets the average Twitter user. Microsoft beat a hasty retreat but expected me to fall for the intelligent API announcements at its home brew conferences.
Buy this management reminder poster at this link.
Then we had the alleged April 1 prank from the Alphabet Google thing. Gentle reader, the company eager to solve death created a self driving car which ran into a bus. A more interesting example, however, was the apparently “human” decision to pull a prank on Gmail users.
According to “Google Reverses Gmail April 1 Prank after Users Mistakenly Put GIFs into Important Emails”:
“Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it,” Google explained when it launched the button on April 1.
Let’s step back from these interesting examples of large companies doing odd duck things and ask this question:
Does financial success and possibly unprecedented market impact improve human decision making?
I would suggest that the science and math club mentality may not scale in the judgment. Whether it is alleged malware techniques to force an old school programmer to write Never10 or creating a situation in which an employee to employee relationship gives new meaning to the joke word “glasshole”, the human judgment angle may need some scrutiny.
Tay was enough for me to consider creating a Tortured Tay segment for this blog to complement Weakly Watson. Alphabet Google’s prank, however, is in a class of its own.
Fiddling with Gmail’s buttons was an idea without merit. Users are on autopilot. Think how users wince when Apple fools with iTunes’ interface. Now shift from an entertainment app to a “real work” app.
Judgment is important. Concentration of user attention requires more than a math club management style. What worked in high school may not work in other situations.
Stephen E Arnold, April 2, 2016
April 2, 2016
I read “How The Internet Turned Microsoft’s AI Chatbot Into A Neo-Nazi.” Now that’s a catchy headline. I understand that artificial intelligence is a great suite of technologies. I know that self driving cars do not get into accidents. Well, mostly. Microsoft’s chat bot Tay is very good.
I learned in this write up:
A key flaw, incredibly, was a simple “repeat after me” game, a call and response exercise that internet trolls used to manipulate Tay into learning hate speech.
Yep, flaws and pesky humans. What can possibly go wrong with smart software?
Stephen E Arnold, April 2, 2016
March 30, 2016
Quite a few outfits embrace open source. There are a number of reasons:
- It is cheaper than writing original code
- It is less expensive than writing original code
- It is more economical than writing original code.
The article “Microsoft is Pretending to be a FOSS Company in Order to Secure Government Contracts With Proprietary Software in ‘Open’ Clothing” reminded me that there is another reason.
I know that IBM has snagged Lucene and waved its once magical wand over the information access system and pronounced, “Watson.” I know that deep inside the kind, gentle heart of Palantir Technologies, there are open source bits. And there are others.
The write up asserted:
For those who missed it, Microsoft is trying to EEE GNU/Linux servers amid Microsoft layoffs; selfish interests of profit, as noted by some writers [1,2] this morning, nothing whatsoever to do with FOSS (there’s no FOSS aspect to it at all!) are driving these moves. It’s about proprietary software lock-in that won’t be available for another year anyway. It’s a good way to distract the public and suppress criticism with some corny images of red hearts.
The other interesting point I highlighted was:
reject the idea that Microsoft is somehow “open” now. The European Union, the Indian government and even the White House now warm up to FOSS, so Microsoft is pretending to be FOSS. This is protectionism by deception from Microsoft and those who play along with the PR campaign (or lobbying) are hurting genuine/legitimate FOSS.
With some government statements of work requiring “open” technologies, Microsoft may be doing what other firms have been doing for a while. See points one to three above. Microsoft is just late to the accountants’ party.
Why not replace the SharePoint search thing with an open source solution? What’s the $1.2 billion MSFT paid for the fascinating Fast Search & Transfer technology in 2008? It works just really well, right?
Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2016
March 29, 2016
One thing you can always count on the tech industry is talent will jump from company to company to pursue the best and most innovating endeavors. The latest tech work to jump ship is Eric Weiss, he leaps from Foursquare to head a new Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group at Slack. VentureBeat reports the story in “Slack Forms Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group On ‘Mining The Chat Corpus.’” Slack is a team communication app and their new Search, Learning, & Intelligence Group will be located in the app’s new New York office.
Weiss commented on the endeavor:
“ ‘The focus is on building features that make Slack better the bigger a company is and the more it uses Slack,” Weiss wrote today in a Medium post. “The success of the group will be measured in how much more productive, informed, and collaborative Slack users get — whether a company has 10, 100, or 10,000 people.’”
For the new group, Weiss wants to hire experts who are talented in the fields of artificial intelligence, information retrieval, and natural language processing. From this talent search, he might be working on a project that will help users to find specific information in Slack or perhaps they will work on mining the chap corpus.
Other tech companies have done the same. Snapchat built a research team that uses artificial intelligence to analyze user content. Flipboard and Pinterest are working on new image recognition technology. Meanwhile Google, Facebook, Baidu, and Microsoft are working on their own artificial intelligence projects.
What will artificial intelligence develop into as more companies work on their secret projects.