Report: Top AI Developments That Took Place in 2019

Report: Top AI Developments That Took Place in 2019

Advancements in AI, in particular, have been incredible in 2019 – be it in the field of machine learning, neural networks, vision, natural language processing (NLP), and certain others. The year saw the progress in technology that has opened new doors for further improvement of things that one couldn't have imagined a few years back. Today so much more is possible owing to the potential of artificial intelligence across almost every sector, industry, country and region.

So, let's unfold a few pages back to this year and explore the significant developments that took place in the field of artificial intelligence in 2019.

AI Acquisitions and Mergers

With the upsurging advancements in artificial intelligence, barriers are natural to emerge to ambitious companies. Here, acquisitions and mergers produce a way to overcome such barriers to organic growth. For some organizations, it caters to a significant business strategy to benefit, increase and accelerate their businesses. When it comes to technology, being a master of one is not fruitful, companies need to advance and attain leadership in certain other technologies as well. For AI companies, as AI is underpinned with most of the industries, it is necessary to acquire or merge with significant others to develop new channels for growth and sustainability.

The year 2019 witnessed a number of AI acquisitions that made the top headlines. Such expansions not only enhance the revenue but also improve the technological facet of the companies. Here is a list of significant AI acquisitions that took place this year.

McDonald's – Dynamic Yield

McDonald's has acquired the personalization company Dynamic Yield. This is the former's largest acquisitions in the past 20 years. Dynamic Yield works with different brands including e-commerce, travel, finance, and media. According to McDonald's, it will use Dynamic Yield's technology to create a drive-thru menu. This drive-thru menu can be tailored to things like the weather, current restaurant traffic, and trending menu items. The menu display can also recommend additional items based on people's preferences after they start ordering.

HP – MapR

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) acquired MapR business assets. According to HPE, the transaction includes MapR's technology, intellectual property, and domain expertise in AI, machine learning, and analytics data management. Phil Davis, president, Hybrid IT, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, stated, "MapR's enterprise-grade file system and cloud-native storage services complement HPE's BlueData container platform strategy and will allow us to provide a unique value proposition for customers. We are pleased to welcome MapR's world-class team to the HPE family."

Nike – Celect

Nike has acquired Boston-based predictive analytics company Celect. The sports brand marked its latest acquisition in the hope to bolster its direct-to-consumer strategy. With the integration of Celect's technology into Nike's mobile apps and website, the latter can better predict what styles of sneakers and apparel customers want, when they want it and where they want to buy it. Chief Operating Officer Eric Sprunk explained, "Our goal is to serve consumers more personally at scale. We have to anticipate demand. We don't have six months to do it. We have 30 minutes."

Uber – Mighty AI

Uber acquired a Seattle startup Mighty AI, which develops training data for computer vision models. Uber has acquired Mighty AI's intellectual property, tooling, tech talent, and labeling community. More than 40 employees from Mighty AI have joined Uber at its Seattle engineering office. The clients of Mighty AI – Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, Accenture, Siemens, and others — have been notified regarding the shut-down of the company's operations.

Cognex – Sualab

Cognex Corporation which is a leader in machine vision for factory automation and industrial barcode reading, acquired Sualab, a leading Korean-based developer of vision software using deep learning for industrial applications. The deal worth USUS$195 million. The acquisition is expected to extend Cognex Corporation's deep learning capabilities. It is also likely to increase opportunities to automate difficult visual inspection tasks in industrial markets.

Strategic AI Partnerships

In a world where every other tech-savvy company is battling in the race of gaining AI lead, partnerships serve them with great opportunity to give their business a competitive edge above others. For AI companies, strategic partnerships open up the opportunity to share their success with one another in a way that benefits all parties involved.

Here is the list of some momentous partnerships signed in the field of AI in 2019.

Novartis – Microsoft

Novartis, in October, announced an important step in reimagining medicine by founding the Novartis AI innovation lab and by selecting Microsoft Corp. as its strategic AI and data-science partner for this effort. The new lab aims to enhance Novartis AI capabilities from research through commercialization. It will also help it accelerate the discovery and development of transformative medicines for patients worldwide. This strategic alliance will focus on AI Empowerment and AI Exploration.

WeBank – Mila – Tencent

Recently, China's WeBank announced two strategic partnerships with Mila and the leading cloud computing platform Tencent Cloud. The cooperation will focus on further developing federated learning, based on WeBank's real-world experiences in finance and fintech, adhering to Mila's core philosophy "AI for Humanity", Tencent's "AI for Good" and WeBank's "Make Banking Better for All " to create safe, inclusive AI applications.

Nuance Communications – Mila: Quebec AI Institute

Nuance Communications, Inc. which is a leading provider of Conversational AI and Ambient Intelligence solutions, announced its partnership with Mila, an academic research institution dedicated to advancing ML with an intensive focus on deep learning related to language and image processing. This partnership will enable Nuance and Mila to collaborate on research, advance cutting-edge work in machine learning, and meaningfully enhance AI applications.

Big Data BizViz (BDB) – L&T Technology Services

Big Data BizViz (BDB) announced a multi-faceted partnership with Larsen &Tubro Technology Services in order to enable the next-gen data-driven engineering solutions. The partnership will help LTTS to integrate the BDB platform into their AI-based solutions to provide enterprises with seamless analytics in a manner that is simple, affordable, scalable and sustainable.

Wipro – IISc Bangalore

In August-September, Wipro announced a partnership with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore in an effort to conduct advanced applied research in autonomous systems, robotics, and 5G space. The collaboration is intended to develop an electric autonomous/driverless car for Indian roads. Both the organizations are going to create their own electric vehicle and then put all the systems inside.

AI Investments

Any technological progress needs investment in new equipment and structures embodying the latest technology in order to realize its benefits. As several companies are marching towards inventions and innovations, investments play a basic yet important role in building their dreams. Here we have compiled some of the significant AI investments that took place in the year 2019.


Amount Funded: US$1 billion

Transaction Name: Investment

Lead Investors: Microsoft Corporation

Artificial intelligence organization OpenAI raised US$1 billion from the tech goliath Microsoft Corporation. Besides funding, OpenAI made a selective computing partnership with Microsoft to assemble new Azure AI supercomputing advancements.

Recogni Inc.

Amount Funded: US$25 million

Transaction Name: Series A

Lead Investors: GreatPoint Ventures

Recogni Inc., the designers of a vision-oriented AI for autonomous vehicles, reported US$25 million in Series A financing driven by GreatPoint Ventures with participation from Toyota AI Ventures, BMW I Ventures, Faurecia (one of the world's leading car innovation organizations), Fluxunit (VC arm of lighting and photonics organization OSRAM), and DNS Capital.


Amount Funded: US$407 million

Transaction Name: Investment

Lead Investors: China Asset Management

Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) organization iFlytek has raised US$407 million from a state-sponsored industry fund and a few provincial government reserves by means of a private placement, as per a documenting on Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Fetch Robotics

Amount Funded: US$46 million

Transaction Name: Series C

Lead Investors: Fort Ross Ventures

Fetch Robotics reported a US$46 million Series C raise. The round, driven by Fort Ross Ventures, brings the San Jose-based warehouse automation organization's total funding up to US$94 million. New financial investors CEAS Investments, Redwood Technologies, TransLink Capital and Zebra Ventures joined the round, alongside existing investors O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures, SoftBank Capital and Sway Ventures.

Beta Bionics

Amount Funded: US$126 million

Transaction Name: Series B and B2

Lead Investors: Perceptive Advisors and Soleus Capital

Beta Bionics, a startup utilizing ML and AI to build up the world's first autonomous bionic pancreas, shut its Series B and B2 rounds of funding, carrying the organization's total capital to US$126 million. The round was co-driven by Perceptive Advisors and Soleus Capital with participation from Farallon Capital, RTW Investments and ArrowMark Partners.

AI Breakthroughs and Innovations

In comparison to other fields, AI has shown some great and remarkable advancements in the past year. As we are about to enter in 2020, let's have a look back at some interesting trendsetter innovations brought in by artificial intelligence and its subsets.

Artificial Deep Neural Network Brain

It has been found that as the artificial deep neural network brain learns to recognize any type of cyber threat, the prediction capabilities of such brain becomes instinctive. This is a significant innovation for enterprises which implies that any kind of malware, known and unknown, is predicted and prevented with unmatched accuracy and speed. The deep learning neural network enables the analysis of files pre-execution in order to prevent malicious files pre-emptively.

Deep Learning Models' Expansion

During 2019 we noticed that the size of deep learning models kept growing at an accelerating pace which indicates that the larger sets of data comprised of greater complexity can now be processed. This innovation of growing the layers of deep learning models is predicted to develop at an exponential pace and also highlight the importance of growing computational efforts and the cost required in training state-of-the-art models.

Generative Adversarial Networks

2019 saw the emergence of a particularly interesting innovation known as Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN). In May 2019, researchers at Samsung demonstrated a GAN-based system that produced videos of a person speaking with only a single photo of that person provided. Later in August, a large dataset consisting of 12,197 MIDI songs each with their own lyrics and melodies were created through neural melody generation from lyrics by using conditional GAN-LSTM.

Upside Down Reinforcement Learning

Swiss AI Lab's team introduced a new methodology known as upside-down reinforcement learning. The team carried out reinforcement learning in the form of supervised learning that allowed them to provide rewards as input, which is contrary to how the traditional reinforcement learning works. The technology also helped them imitate and train the robot for carrying out hard tasks just by imitating in front of a machine.

Explainable AI

In order to understand the methodologies inside the black box and bring crucial thrust in the process, several companies released services to enables the business to highlight the prime factors that lead to outcomes from their machine learning models. Today, for the first time, companies are able to clear the cloud and gain insights into the way the black box works.

AI Leadership Appointments

Every human associated with a company impacts its functions and operations but leadership plays a significant role in driving success and value. Without the intellect and guiding light, an organization becomes directionless. More importantly in the field of AI, leadership is even more important as the technology is rising and advancing at a fast pace, therefore it needs to be channelized in a useful manner. The year 2019 saw some great visionaries taking charge of next-gen AI innovations across the world. Here are some notable AI leadership appointments:

•  Publicis Sapient elevated Nigel Vaz as a global CEO.

•  Apple hired Ian Goodfellow as the director of Machine Learning for its Special Projects Group.

•  Experian which is a leading global information services company appointed Sathya Kalyanasundaram as Country Managing Director, Experian India.

•  Google CEO Sundar Pichai has replaced Larry Page as the head of parent company Alphabet Inc, as founders Page and Sergey Brin step down from active roles.

•  Vishal Sikka, founder, and CEO of the AI company Vianai Systems was named Oracle's Board of Directors.

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