November 19, 2015
Artificial intelligence is moving into the mainstream and the San Francisco-based Sentient is one example of how it’s working. The company most recently built a visual search service for an online footwear company, Shoes.com, and also worked with Saint Michael’s Hospital at the University of Toronto on tracking patient care. Rather than rely on history for recommendations, the technology looks at more than a hundred factors to make judgments. Microsoft is also building AI into its products, including its Azure cloud platform.
According to The New York Times, “Sentient’s AI is based on something called ‘dynamic ontology,’ which means that insights and actions are determined based on how the situation appears in the moment.” The company, which was founded in 2008, is now experimenting with financial trading, in which recent price movements could predict where “things go next.”
“You can imagine this as the ability for a system to understand complex interrelated data at any moment,” says Sentient co-founder/chief executive Antoine Blondeau, who predicts that in five years, the trading product will look at social feeds, government filings and “all the TV and radio in the world.”
Sentient has received $143 million from Tata Communications, and the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing among other investors, and uses two million computing cores, amassed from 4,000 locations.
At Microsoft, says The Wall Street Journal, chief executive Satya Nadella is also promoting AI as “crucial for the coming age.” Speaking at the Next:Economy conference in San Francisco, Nadella noted the company is “teaching Cortana to take on locally appropriate cultural attributes in different parts of the world,” as it competes with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Now and Facebook’s M.
Nadella says he is also paying attention to WeChat among other apps from China, that include personal-assistant and chat-bot capabilities. Machine learning and other “intelligent software techniques” are built into Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure, which competes with Amazon Web Services.