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What is artificial intelligence?

Demis Hassabis, co-founder of Google's artificial intelligence (AI) startup DeepMind.

Jeon Heon-Kyun | Getty Images

Demis Hassabis, co-founder of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) startup DeepMind.

Meanwhile Google has enhanced its core search engine, Gmail, Google Street View, Google Photos, Google Translate, YouTube and other applications using AI.

In recent years several open-source frameworks for deep learning have emerged, but Google’s TensorFlow is thought to be the most popular. Googlers have even developed a tensor processing unit (TPU) to accelerate network network training and predictions beyond what’s currently possible with commercially available silicon. And Alphabet’s Waymo is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle research.

Alphabet research scientists regularly publish academic papers on their latest achievements, which is somewhat rare in a such a highly competitive industry that values secrecy. In fact, AI is so important to the company that Google CEO Sundar Pichai has begun describing Google is an AI-first company.

Amazon has long used AI to recommend products in its e-commerce business, and it employs robots to move products around fulfillment centers.

But in the past few years the company has brought in some revenue by selling Amazon Echo speakers through which people can talk to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. While Alexa’s speech recognition isn’t perfect, it does quickly respond to user input, and it plugs into an increasing number of third-party services and devices.

Building on the public’s fascination with Alexa, Amazon last year introduced AI services for recognizing objects in images and understanding voice and text input. Amazon has also opened a convenience store that uses AI to identify the products that customers grab off the shelves.

Apple has looked to AI to recognize handwriting, lengthen device battery life and even find the text that could be selected in PDF files. But Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant on iPhones and other Apple hardware, uses deep learning now, and the company has recently announced the HomePod speaker that packages up Siri.

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