Google started a new VC firm, called Gradient Ventures. So what's interesting about the firm (beside the relevant, great name) ?
If you take a look at the list of Founding Partners and Advisors, most of them are engineers. On the advisor front, you find Prof. Daphne Koller and Dr. Peter Norvig, both of whom are famous in teaching AI/ML classes. So Gradient's structure is very different from traditional fund which mostly run by career VCs.
The goal of Gradient is also fairly interesting. As reported by CNBS news, sometimes Google would put Google engineers into the startup to help out a project, and there are explicit rule to disallow them to bring back any IP back to Google. Another perk is that startup could access the vast amount of data accumulated by Google if they got invested by Gradient. That gives an extra edge for both the startups and Google.
We think this could be a boon to the A.I. startup ecosystem as there are few companies in the world who know the space better. That said, we can't help but be skeptical about Google's motive here - how this can be anything but a funnel for Google acquisitions or a funnel for figuring out where Google to apply its A.I. prowess next. Recall that Google invested in Uber too before deciding to compete with it. So, startups, do your due diligence.
As we learned this week, MS is pushing forward Microsoft Research AI (MSRAI) This is clearly a measure to counter research labs such as Google's Brain and DeepMind, Facebook's FAIR and OpenAI. Microsoft already owns one research company with similar style - Maluuba. So, what does MRAI offer that's different?
The first thing to notice is Microsoft Research (MSR) has always been a strong contender in AI and ML in the first place. Most notable is that they are one of the few groups come up with a deep-learning-based speech recognition system. MS' aim perhaps is to create a specialized task force, with the scale larger than a single research department, on the field of AI/ML/DL. MSRAI seems to be the case.
Perhaps another differentiator of MSRAI: Once you look at the other five companies we mentioned - all of them focused on artificial special intelligence. Whereas MSRAI's effort seems to focus on the general intelligence, the holy grail of our field. So the type of collaboration MSRAI is involved in is also different from other sites. e.g. She is working with MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds and Machines.
On the news of AI alliance, perhaps we should talk about the Baidu-Nvidia Alliance happened around a week ago. As we knew, both companies are important players in deep learning. Nvidia dominates in terms of deep learning hardware, and we all know Baidu is the "Google of China". So their alliance is very significant.
Three important gists about the deal.
- Baidu will adopt Nvidia Volta in large scale on its cloud platform.
- Baidu will pick up Nvidia PX on its self-driving car initiative. In China, Baidu certainly has advantage.
- Nvidia, on the other hand, will help optimize Baidu's deep learning framework, Paddle-Paddle.
So far, it seems to indicate the alliance is more beneficial to Nvidia than to Baidu. One can imagine the Baidu's Nvidia adoption would expand Nvidia dominance even towards China. Yet Nvidia's effort seems to focus on merely helping making Peddle-peddle to be faster. Perhaps, this event signifies the power of Nvidia's leverage in the AI space again, just like we reported on Issue 13 and Issue 14.