Friday, April 8, 2016

Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are big business, and Amazon’s acquisition of AI startup Orbeus, Inc. is on trend. A source close to the deal suggested it is an attempt by the tech giant to expand their software for the cloud and connected-device businesses. As reported by Bloomberg Tech, the anonymous source leaked the news before Amazon and Orbeus has announced the transaction. The authenticity of the information leans towards true, as requests for a response from Orbeus CEO Yi Li have gone unanswered. Developed through photo-recognition tech based on AI neural networks called ReKognition, and initially available for consumers and companies, the Orbeus website currently claims it is no longer available because, “[...] we’re up to new/exciting things.” Which could be the Amazon deal. Amazon isn’t the only giant to invest in AI. According to founder and CEO Raj Singh of Tempo AI, all the major tech giants are investing in AI, at least to improve digital assistant helpfulness. Geekwire reported just some of the acquisitions made by companies including Amazon:
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon are all actively acquiring talent and technology to advance the personal assistance space beyond what Singh calls the “participatory” nature of it today, to become “anticipatory.” 
Here’s just a small taste for the big moves that are being made:Microsoft recently rolled out Cortana, the personal assistant tied to Windows Phone 8.1, that it is hoping will compete with Google Now and Apple’s Siri. 
In January, Google paid $400 million to buy a secretive artificial intelligence company called DeepMind. 
In December, Facebook hired Yann LeCun, a leading New York University researcher, to run its new AI division, and three months later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg invested personally in Vicarious, a startup working on software that can recognize images. 
Amazon is also investing in the space, with the launch of two recent voice recognition products ahead of a smartphone. 
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is backing the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a multi-million dollar effort to study AI. The effort is headed by former University of Washington computer science professor Oren Etzioni.
Apple and Salesforce have also entered the AI space with their own purchases - Salesforce with MetaMind and Apple in January with Emotient. This move by Amazon shouldn’t be a surprise. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has great interest in increase of efficiency in the form of automated, cloud-based services. Perhaps as a warm up to the announcement, Bezos threw a Palms Springs event for lovers of machines and robotics last month in Palm Springs, CA. It would be reasonable to think an announcement by Orbeus or Amazon (or both) is forthcoming. See the original post and more at Larry Scheinfeld's Startup Trends. Be sure to follow him on Twitter!

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