The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival, held in Austin last week, is an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity and has become the place to discover the technology of tomorrow today." This year, conversations around SXSW Interactive have been dominated by mobile apps, virtual reality, 3D printing, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and security but there are 3 areas that are beginning to gather real pace are set to have a profound effect on our industry. Fear of a robofuture was prevalent at SXSW, with apprehensions about how humanoid machines, artificial intelligence and deep learning will impact our future. John Havens, founder of The H(app)athon Project, went as far as to run a session called "The Dispensables", pointing to Gartner research predicting that 1/3 of all Americans will be out of jobs by 2025 due to automation. Dr Ishiguro suggested that both the home computer and ubiquity of smartphones have paved the way for more futuristic applications, including personal robots and digital retail assistants that can help customers with their clothes shopping.
A Silicon Valley chip designer has launched a USB stick with a supercomputer onboard. Movidius, based in San Mateo, California, has essentially put a deep learning chip inside a USB drive. Deep learning involves "training" a computational model so it can decipher natural language. The "Fathom Neural Compute Stick" has been designed to connect to existing systems (running Linux) and increase the performance of deep learning tasks by 20-30 times. Movidius chips are also used to help drones to avoid obstacles and thermal cameras to spot people in a fire.
Nearly 140 private companies working to advance artificial intelligence technologies have been acquired since 2011, with over 40 acquisitions taking place in 2016 alone (as of 10/7/2016). Corporate giants like Google, IBM, Yahoo, Intel, Apple and Salesforce, are competing in the race to acquire private AI companies, with Samsung emerging as a new entrant this month with its acquisition of startup Viv Labs, which is developing a Siri-like AI assistant. Google has been the most prominent global player, with 11 acquisitions in the category under its belt (follow all of Google's M&A activity here through our real-time Google acquisitions tracker). In 2013, the corporate giant picked up deep learning and neural network startup DNNresearch from the computer science department at the University of Toronto. This acquisition reportedly helped Google make major upgrades to its image search feature.
Whether it's opening Google Maps for directions, shopping on Amazon, or watching movies on Netflix, 2016 was the year that bots truly hit mainstream. This seismic development -- which has critical implications for businesses, consumers, and, indeed, humankind -- is the result of three developments that came to a head in 2016: First, an unprecedented capacity to analyze data; second, a backlash (limited though it was) to protect what data can be analyzed; and third, a welcoming of automation into our lives that we couldn't have fathomed even a few years ago. At this moment, we have more data than ever before. We're creating information at a bewildering pace -- approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, which is enough to fill 57.5 billion iPads (at 32 gigabytes apiece). Big data is now a given, affecting every industry and function.