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2017 will be big year for AI thanks to tech giants

Matt Kapko | Jan. 3, 2017
Technology's leading companies drove the evolution of artificial intelligence in 2016, and Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are all expected to push AI much further in 2017.

Google bakes machine learning into G Suite apps

Google invests in AI for various purposes, perhaps more than any other company today, but it also exemplifies how machine learning can be blended into popular apps, such as Gmail, that billions of people use every day. Google's self-driving car project, now a separate company called Waymo, may generate more attention for AI, but small features in Google Apps could potentially add up to a bigger impact for more people.

When Google renamed its suite of productivity apps as "G Suite," it also announced plans to bake more AI and machine learning into the portfolio. The company introduced a new feature in Drive, for example, called "quick access," that "uses your activity patterns to predictively serve up to you the file that you need," said Prabhakar Raghavan, vice president of Google Apps, in September. "Explore," a new feature in Docs, Sheets and Slides, automatically applies formulas to company data based on common queries from users. 

Moorhead doesn't expect Google to add many more features to Google Home in 2017 and says it's also unlikely that the device will exceed the capabilities of Amazon's Echo in the coming year. He does, however, expect Google to extend many of its AI-driven features in image search to video search during 2017. 

Microsoft shares progress on AI development

Microsoft this month shared some of the latest research and development progress it achieved in AI with a specific focus on conversational computing. The company says it has invested in AI for almost 25 years and is determined to bring new technology to consumers, business and developers in 2017. Microsoft's newest chatbot Zo, which it launched in the United States on Kik in October, has more than 115,000 users, according to the company. 

The Microsoft Bot Framework attracted 67,000 developers to date, and Microsoft says it's adding new tools to make it easier to create bots with cognitive functions and natural-language processing. Microsoft also announced a new service, called "," that uses AI to simplify the task of scheduling meetings and introduced the Cortana Devices SDK to make its digital assistant available to hardware manufacturers who want to build smarter capabilities into their devices, according to Microsoft.

"Microsoft surprised everyone in 2016 and I'm expecting more surprises in 2017," Moorhead says. He predicts the company will release a standalone intelligent agent and a personal computer that will outperform Amazon's Echo. "I'm also expecting to see many more business-related AI APIs."

Gauging the impact of AI in the enterprise in 2017

Forrester Research recently surveyed 612 business and technology professionals to determine the scope of AI research in enterprise. While 58 percent of the respondents said their organizations are researching AI, only 12 percent said they use AI systems at work. "This gap reflects growing interest in AI but little actual use at this time," the firm wrote in a separate report on the potential of AI in the enterprise in 2017.


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