AI Startups That Have Attracted Tech Giants

Dozens of startups focused on AI solutions have been bagged by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon among other companies in the past years. We've a run-down on all the popular AI-focused companies that have been acquired by the giant. As you will notice in the list, these acquisitions only go far as back as five-six years, reaffirming how nascent this space is.

Halli Labs
Google took many by surprise this week when the news got out that it has acquired the Bengaluru-based AI startup. Much about the four-month old startup remains unknown, but we know that some of its founding members came from marketplace Stayzilla. Halli Labs is joining Google’s Next Billion team, which aims to solve the last mile problem by serving people from emerging markets.

Apple confirmed last year that it had acquired the small Indian machine learning company. Back in the day, Tuplejump offered software services to store, process, and visualise data.
China’s conglomerate Baidu acquired, a startup based out of Seattle that works on chatbots and voice-based applications across several platforms.

Lattice Data
Apple acquired Lattice Data, a startup that uses AI to mine "dark data" — the kind of data that is collected by not used normally for broader purposes earlier this year.

Cisco purchased MindMeld, an AI startup that creates "conversational interfaces" through bots and voice-powered assistants. At the time of the acquisition, MindMeld’s API was being used by over 1,200 companies including Samsung, Google, Intel, and Spotify.

In March this year, Spotify said it was acquiring Sonalytic, a startup that uses machine learning to offer improved music recommendation.

Earlier this year, Apple acquired Israel-based startup RealFace, which developers deep-learning based face authentication technology. Before the acquisition, RealFace was betting big on making passwords redundant.

The Chinese startup that is working on similar capabilities as Amazon’s Alexa was acquired by Baidu earlier this year. The company also has an AI-based app called Flow.

Google acquired the online service Kaggle earlier this year. The company hosted data science and machine learning competitions prior to its acquisition.

Microsoft kickstarted the year by announcing it is buying deep-learning startup Maluuba. The Montreal-based company, Microsoft said, offers "one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding." Before the startup was acquired, it was working on making advancements toward a more general AI by creating "literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans — a vision exactly in line with ours."
Amazon quietly acquired the San Diego-based startup earlier this year. The startup uses machine learning to analyse user behavior around a company’s key intellectual property.

Geometric Intelligence
Uber acquired the New York City-based company late last year, as it worked on expanding its AI efforts. Geometric Intelligence was said to work on solutions that could accurately estimate rider locations and travel times, and also help Uber in its self-driving project.

Masquerade Technologies
Facebook acquired Masquerade Technologies after the startup’s app that offered Snapchat-like selfie filters gained popularity among young customers.

What is AI, anyway?
Back in 1956, scholars gathered at Dartmouth College to begin considering how to build computers that could improve themselves and take on problems that only humans could handle . That's still a workable definition of artificial intelligence.

An initial burst of enthusiasm at the time, however, devolved into an "AI winter" lasting many decades as early efforts largely failed to create machines that could think and learn - or even listen, see or speak.

That started changing five years ago. In 2012, a team led by Geoffrey Hinton at the University of Toronto proved that a system using a brain-like neural network could "learn" to recognize images. That same year, a team at Google led by Andrew Ng taught a computer system to recognise cats in YouTube videos - without ever being taught what a cat was.

Since then, computers have made enormous strides in vision, speech and complex game analysis. One AI system recently beat the world's top player of the ancient board game Go.

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