With the race for artificial intelligence (AI) shifting into high gear, companies are not only developing AI systems in-house, but are increasingly bringing start-ups into the fold to augment their efforts. Market intelligence firm CB Insights released its list of AI acquisitions over the last five years. A review of the most active acquirers can provide insight into future developments at those companies, and show how the new technologies are being integrated.
One intriguing revelation is that many of the acquired companies work in the areas of deep learning and machine learning, two disciplines within AI. Algorithms and software are used to develop models of the human brain called neural networks, attempting to recreate our capacity to learn. Another revelation is that much of the acquired technology can be directly integrated into virtual personal assistants . This is an area of great interest to big tech, but is also being pursued by a surprising number of other companies .
Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ) has made a number of AI-related acquisitions in the area of machine learning. Each appears to provide the company with specific opportunities to improve its current business:
- Madbits focused on technology related to searching and understanding images, and the ability to organize large data sets. It previously released an iOS app that created photo collages.
- Magic Pony developed neural networks that can sharpen blurry cellphone images or video to near HD-quality. It also can use information in the original to improvise new or expanded images -- great for use in virtual reality. These will both help Twitter increase its image features.
- TellApart allows marketers to better target potential customers across device platforms. This could improve monetization of Twitter's ads.
Whetlab is probably the most interesting acquisition. While it is less business-specific, it will bring the most advanced AI capability. It created technology that helps companies jump-start their deep learning by providing an infrastructure; the time required to train AI systems is reduced from months to days. This technology can be used to improve a variety of areas in Twitter's business, including language understanding, image recognition, and user profiles.
These acquisitions reveal how two very different technology companies are integrating AI with a goal of improving their respective businesses. Acquisitions for their own sake are folly, but using them to gain a competitive advantage, improve business processes, or to better serve customers can lead to success. Time will tell how successful each of these companies has been in leveraging these technologies.
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Danny Vena owns shares of Apple. Danny Vena has the following options: long January 2018 $85 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $90 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Twitter.
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