Who is leading in AI research among big players like IBM, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft?

IBM Cognative Cloud is a front runner in the AI race to build AI solutions and should be recognized in this article.

Yann LeCun 
Yann LeCun, Director of AI Research at Facebook and Professor at NYU

Well, I’m biased 😉

But I can say a few things:

  • Apple is not a player in the AI research circuit because they have a very secretive culture. You simply cannot do leading-edge research in secret. If you can’t publish, it’s not research. At best, it’s technology development.
  • Microsoft is doing some good work, but they are losing quite a lot of people to Facebook and Google. They did some good work on deep learning in speech (and on handwriting recognition back in the early 2000s before the current craze). But their recent efforts seem to have been less ambitious than at FAIR or DeepMind.
  • Google (through Google Brain and other groups) is probably ahead in the deployment of deep learning in products and services, because they started earlier than everyone and because they are a very large company. They have done quite a lot of background work in infrastructure (e.g. TensorFlow, the Tensor Processing Unit hardware…). But much of it is focused on applications and product development rather than long-term AI research. A number of top researchers from Google Brain have left for DeepMind, OpenAI, or FAIR.
  • DeepMind is doing very good work on learning-based AI. Their long-term research goals are somewhat similar to ours at FAIR, and many of the topics we are working on are similar: unsupervised/generative models, planning, RL, games, memory-augmented networks, differentiable programming, etc. They face the challenge of being geographically and organizationally separated from their largest internal customer within Alphabet (Google). It makes is more difficult for them to “pay their way” by generating revenue for their owners. But they seem to be doing OK.
  • Facebook started FAIR 2.5 years ago and managed to establish itself as a leader in AI research in this very short time. I’m astounded by how many world-class researchers we’ve been able to attract (FAIR has about 60 researchers and engineers between New York, Menlo Park, Paris and Seattle right now). I’m also very impressed by the quality and impact of the research we’ve produced over the last 2.5 years. We are ambitious in our goals, we are here for the long run, and we have an impact on the company, which makes it easy for us to justify our existence. Crucially, we are very open: all of our researchers publish multiple papers per year. There is nothing more sobering than seeing a promising young researcher join a less-than-open company or a startup and disappear form the research circuit.



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