Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic right now, but the reality is that AI will take time to develop and be implemented in the world around us. The business side of AI is still very young, and it's not yet clear which companies will emerge as the leaders that will change the world -- and investors' portfolios.

But that doesn't mean it's too early to look for those potential game-changing investments. AI reminds one of the internet's early days, more flash than substance. Years later, the internet is the foundation of today's modern economy.

AI could similarly be the future of the technology industry. Here are five AI stocks that investors should pay close attention to today.

1. Nvidia

Artificial intelligence requires a ton of computing power to process tons of data very quickly. Nvidia (NVDA -6.80%) is a semiconductor company specializing in discrete graphics processing units (GPU). These are dedicated processing chips, separate from the central processing unit, and can handle higher computing loads. This makes them popular for demanding applications like gaming, cryptocurrency mining, autonomous driving, and data centers. 

Nvidia is the dominant discrete GPU company, with roughly 80% of the global market. That leadership makes it an easy favorite to benefit from the expected increase in computing power demand as AI becomes increasingly prevalent. The company did roughly $27 billion in total revenue over the past year, but analyst estimates believe that figure could triple by the end of the decade.

2. Tesla

Most know Tesla (TSLA -12.34%) for pioneering electric vehicles and its growing renewable energy business. However, CEO Elon Musk has emphasized that AI will play a significant role in the company's future. Tesla has been developing its full self-driving (FSD) vehicle technology for years as part of its planned robotaxi business. Additionally, Tesla has ambitious plans for Optimus, an automated droid that will perform manual labor and other tasks.

Operating fleets of millions of vehicles and droids will require vast amounts of data and AI to run them. Tesla is one of the largest companies pursuing autonomous driving and arguably possesses a massive headstart in acquiring the data to train and perfect these technologies. Tesla's stock has a promising floor as a leading electric vehicle player over the coming years with the bonus of huge upside potential via its robotaxi and Optimus aspirations.

3. Palantir Technologies

Both business and government organizations have been leaning on Palantir Technologies (PLTR -7.67%) for its machine learning software to analyze data and help users make real-time actionable decisions. Palantir is taking the next step, implementing AI into its software products. The company recently announced its Artificial Intelligence Platform (AIP), which will allow users to launch and manage language learning models and other AI in existing Palantir use cases.

AI could potentially increase the range of Palantir's capabilities, which are already used in many industries, from national security to manufacturing. The company has deep government ties and is steadily building business in the private sector. Palantir's commercial customer count grew 55% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Palantir's complex product might not be for every enterprise. Still, with just 143 U.S. enterprise customers, there's a lot of room for growth, and AI capabilities could aid expansion efforts moving forward.

4. Snowflake

Artificial intelligence requires lots of data, a key aspect of the technology. Data warehousing company Snowflake (SNOW -5.26%) could become a critical part of developing AI technologies in the future. Snowflake's software layers across cloud platforms like Azure or AWS to store data and let users quickly run searches. Additionally, the company has a data marketplace where companies can purchase access to various data sets, a potential tool for training AI.

Snowflake's growing marketplace and usage-based billing could set the company up for years of growth. It did $2 billion in revenue over the past year and is targeting $10 billion in annual revenue by the end of its fiscal 2029 year. More importantly, Snowflake has just 7,800 customers today. If AI becomes as essential to technology as the internet has become, Snowflake could someday be one of the industry's largest companies.

5. Alphabet

Google Search is the dominant internet search engine, with an estimated 93% of global searches. Its parent company, Alphabet (GOOGL -5.04%), is developing its language model (Bard) to compete with ChatGPT, reportedly integrating it into Google. Historically, the search engine hasn't changed much over the years. You can search on Google, and it will present pages of links for users to browse through.

However, adding a language model to search could change the game, turning Google into a conversational experience where Bard feeds you direct information instead of links. Some have speculated that rival Microsoft's partnership with OpenAI and ChatGPT would threaten its dominance, but let's pump the brakes a bit. Alphabet owns global search engine traffic and has the deep pockets to invest in weaving AI into its already-stellar product. Alphabet is a familiar face that could significantly affect how AI is used worldwide.