May 10, 2016

Weekly Tech News Roundup: AI as a Service, Chatbots, Oculus Rift, Silicon Valley, and More

AI as a Service, Chatbots, Oculus Rift, Silicon ValleyIssue 9
In this issue we look at
Facebook's internal A.I. platform, how companies not named FB can gain access to these same tool, why you shouldn't write-off chatbots, how to get your first look at the Oculus Rift, and what the hit HBO show 'Silicon Valley' is doing now.

A.I. as a Service

Facebook launched FBLearner Flow, an A.I. platform that ensures algorithms and machine learning models are developed once, and then implemented in a reusable manner. More than 25 percent of the FB engineering team shares and reuses code using this tool. For now, it's only available to engineers at FB.

Don’t work at FB? Not a problem.

Algorithmia has created a similar platform, with more than 2,000 algorithms in its library, open to all developers everywhere.

The crowd-sourced API has built a community around algorithm development, ensuring that all developers – not just those working at FB – have access to state-of-the-art algorithms for their applications.

"Algorithms are being developed all the time, but are not getting into the hands of people and applications that could benefit from them," Diego Oppenheimer said, founder and CEO of Algorithmia.

Both FBLearner Flow, and Algorithmia provide the platform and tools needed to enable engineers to experiment with machine learning in a scalable, extensible way – any developer can build upon the work of others without ever having to setup or configure a server.

PLUS: How the Algorithm Economy and Containers are Changing the Way We Build and Deploy Apps Today

There's A Bot For That

Everybody’s talking about: Chatbots.

Thanks to big data and advances in artificial intelligence, it’s now possible to teach machines to understand and speak to humans.

Facebook and Microsoft are betting big on a future full of people talking to intelligent chatbots.

With Facebook’s Bot Engine, and Microsoft’s Bot Framework, both companies are providing the tools, platform, and the "prepackaged intelligence that give bots the ability to understand natural language, for example, or analyze and label images."

The recent obsession with chatbots is really just a reflection of an ongoing explosion in A.I. development. And, chatbots in particular represent both the "manifestation of humanity’s biggest hopes and fears for technology" (NY Times).

Short-term, chatbots will disrupt how businesses engage with consumers, but long-term we’re witnessing a larger paradigm shift in how people interact with machines.

"It’s clear to me [A.I.] is going to be the foundation for the next layer of programming," Eric Schmidt says, Alphabet (Google) chairman.

The next disruptive business will likely emerge from this "potent mix" of A.I. running in the cloud (Financial Times).

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls this "conversation as a platform," suggesting it’ll be more significant than what touchscreens did for smartphones.

While most chatbots are mostly just a fancy interface hiding actual humans doing the work of reading emails, scheduling meetings, and ordering Chipotle — or Domino’s pizza if that’s what you're into— it’s clear to Google's CEO Sundar Pichai that the future is A.I. 

"We're moving from a mobile-first, to an A.I.-first world."

While chatbots might seem cute today, venture capitalist Chris Dixon points out: The next big thing always starts out looking like a toy.

PLUS: The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Chatbots

Oculus Rift Becomes Reality

You might have heard: A small number of Oculus Rift headsets went on sale last week at Best Buy, and online at Amazon, and Microsoft.

Oculus originally started taking preorders for the Rift in January, but struggled to keep up with demand due to a component shortage, causing delays in fulfillment. The preorders were expected to ship in March.

This is the first time the Rift has been available for in-store purchase.

But did you know: You can get a hands-on demo of the Oculus Rift at select Best Buy stores? Head to Oculus Live to schedule a demo.

The Satire of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley, the hit HBO show about the tech industry that blurs the lines between parody and reality, has taken things a step further:

They're now publishing satirical news stories into Google Search using a new tool called Post, revealing easter eggs from the show and more.

Go ahead, search "Silicon Valley" or "Silicon Valley HBO" on Google. We’ll wait.

You'll find "news" about Stanford's damaged robots, Hooli's soaring stock price, and a CEO change at Pied Piper. Or, just check it all out here.

Hooli, of course, isn't just changing Silicon Valley; they’re changing the world.

It’s not the first time Google and the show have had fun together. Last year, when Google co-founder Larry Page unveiled the new parent company, Alphabet, he embedded a link to in theannouncement.

PLUS: Creator Mike Judge and Alec Berg Talk Tech’s Real Bubble

Emergent Future is a weekly, hand-curated dispatch exploring technology through the lens of artificial intelligence, data science, and the shape of things to come. 

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Matt Kiser

Matt Kiser

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