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In recent years, the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has progressed at a rapid rate. Once confined to the realm of science fiction, these intelligent "thinking" machines are all around us now. However, they don't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and they aren't trying to kill us. In fact, most are just making our lives a little more convenient (for now).

A child shaking hands with an android robot.

Image source: Unsplash.

The usual names -- including Apple,, and IBM -- crop up when thinking of AI industry leaders. Two companies with a lot of experience in AI, albeit in different ways, are Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG). While AI is not the first thing to jump to mind when thinking of these behemoths, there is no denying their investment in creating a system of artificial intelligence to dominate the market for years to come.

The only question left, then, is how they are going to use it.


It's no surprise that one of the world's leading software developers is at the forefront of AI creation. In 2016, the tech giant established the Artificial Intelligence and Research engineering group following a restructuring of the business. In its end-of-year report, Microsoft listed AI at the top of its priorities, marking a shift in focus for the company.

In 2018, it took a step further, placing its AI employees in its public cloud project Microsoft Azure while also acquiring further talent such as Bonsai, Lobe, and Semantic Machines. It seems it has now added another bullet to the chamber in the form of a visionary leader with years of experience in a competing AI program. I am, of course, talking about Bill Stasior.

Stasior left his position as head of Siri at Apple in May, and has now been made corporate vice president of technology in the office of the chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, at Microsoft. Formerly the vice president for AI and Siri, Stasior spearheaded the Siri virtual-assistant program for Apple.

Microsoft will apply Stasior's AI experience to its current programs such as Cognitive Toolkit, the company's deep learning framework that helps describe artificial neural networks, allowing programs to "learn" and expand on performed tasks. The company also provides an AI platform that harnesses a set of application programming interfaces (APIs); this is geared toward the futuristic approach of using speech, language, and vision at the core of the process, streamlining traditional methods.

With all the tools and resources to create a sustainable AI, all Microsoft needed was a leader to head it, and now it has its man. It will be interesting to see if the company ventures into the virtual-assistant program soon with Stasior's expertise in the field.

Alphabet's Google

In 2002, "digital prophet" Kevin Kelly sat down with two relatively unknown young men to discuss their free-to-use web search business and questioned how they expected to make any money from this. Their response was simple: "Oh, we're actually building an artificial intelligence company."

These two men were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google.

The legitimacy of this quote has been disputed, but in a world full of technological advancements in mass data and AI, you cannot look past Google and the arsenal of information it has collected in two decades. Google's stated mission is "to organize the world's information." However, there's an argument some have made about Google's secret mission: "'to monitor the world's interactions with the world's information,' which is how machine learning 'learns.'"

At its 2018 I/O developer conference, Google shocked the crowd with Duplex, a human-like voice assistant that could make phone calls on behalf of its user. In the year since this display, little more has come from a product that was little more than a fun experiment, yet clearly Google has begun looking into the creation of an AI that resembles something from the movies, with the ability portray emotional intelligence, a distinctly human trait.

Google has put a lot of effort into reassuring the public of its ethical approach to AI, but unlike Microsoft and other companies, Google has amassed decades' worth of data at an immeasurable scale, which, if applied to programs such as Duplex, could potentially lead to a bona fide emotionally intelligent AI. This thought can be quite disconcerting, and one would hope that Google will keep all of its AI research within the bounds of ethical practice regarding artificial intelligence.

In short, what we have seen are two very different AI programs, with Microsoft opting for the standard machine learning approach with business applications, and Google potentially looking into a more personal, emotionally intelligent form of AI, built on the back of years of collected consumer data.

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