Facebook Bolsters AI Research Team

[Announcement from Facebook AI Research]

The Facebook AI Research team is excited to announce additions joining from both academia and industry. Highlighting the newest members to this quickly growing team including the award-winning Léon Bottou and Laurens van der Maaten. Their work will focus on several aspects of machine learning, with applications to image, speech, and natural language understanding.

Léon Bottou joins us from Microsoft Research. After his PhD in Paris, he held research positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories, AT&T Labs-Research and NEC Labs. He is best known for his pioneering work on machine learning, structured prediction, stochastic optimization, and image compression. More recently, he worked on causal inference in learning systems. He is rejoining some of his long-time collaborators Jason Weston, Ronan Collobert, Antoine Bordes and Yann LeCun, the latter with whom he developed the widely used DjVu compression technology and the AT&T check reading system. Leon is a laureate of the 2007 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists.

Nicolas Usunier was most recently a professor at Université de Technologie de Compiègne and also held a chair position from the “CNRS-Higher Education Chairs” program. Nicolas earned his PhD in machine learning in 2006 with specific focus areas in theory, ranking, and learning with multiples objectives. At FAIR he will work on text understanding tasks, especially question answering, and on the design of composite objective functions that can define complex learning problems from simpler ones.

Anitha Kannan comes to us from Microsoft Research where she worked on various applications in computer vision, Web and e-Commerce search, linking structured and unstructured data sources and computational education. Anitha received her PhD from the University of Toronto and will continue her research in machine learning and computer vision.

Laurens van der Maaten comes to us with an extensive history working on machine learning and computer vision. Prior to joining Facebook, Laurens was an Assistant Professor at Delft University of Technology, a post-doctoral researcher at UC San Diego and a Ph.D. student at Tilburg University. He will continue his research on learning embeddings for visualization and deep learning, time series classification, regularization, and cost-sensitive learning.

Michael Auli joins FAIR after completing a postdoc at Microsoft Research where he worked on improving language translation quality using recurrent neural networks. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh for his work on syntactic parsing with approximate inference.

Gabriel Synnaève was most recently a postdoctoral fellow at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Prior to that, he received his PhD in Bayesian modeling applied to real-time strategy games AI from University of Grenoble in 2012. Gabriel will initially be working on speech recognition and language understanding.

Having hired more than 40 people across our Menlo Park and New York labs — including some of the top AI researchers and engineers in the world, these new hires underscore our commitment to advancing the field of machine intelligence and developing technologies that give people better ways to communicate.

[End of announcement]

The People Behind Britain’s AI Research & Development

The UK has a great heritage in AI, stemming back to pioneers such as Alan Turing, one of the undisputed fathers of the field. Britain has some of the best AI research groups in the world, including Cambridge, Imperial and University College London (UCL), and is a growing centre for tech entrepreneurship. But companies specialising in AI are few and far between, and those that do exist tend to be focused in one particular area.

Google’s acquisition of DeepMind has shone a light on this relatively nascent commercial sector, and Ben Medlock, co-founder of AI firm SwiftKey, believes that the UK is capable of building sustainable AI businesses to rival the giants of the West Coast.

Some experts have warned that artificial intelligence could lead to mass unemployment. Dr Stuart Armstrong, from the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, said computers had the potential to take over people’s jobs at a faster rate than new roles could be created.

He cited logistics, administration and insurance underwriting as professions that were particularly vulnerable to the development of artificial intelligence. However, Anderson said AI is not all about “hacking the workforce to pieces”. Rather it is about making individuals more productive, and making sure that “processes get applied, stuff is accurate, errors are eliminated, and compliance is met”. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that ‘smart machines’ will have a widespread impact on businesses by 2020.

Here are some British AI companies making headlines in the field:

Founded by Blaise Thomson, Martin Szummer and Steve Young, VocalIQ is a Cambridge-based startup, formed to exploit technology developed by the Spoken Dialogue Systems Group at the University of Cambridge, UK. With expertise and toolkits covering speech recognition, spoken language understanding, dialog design, and speech synthesis the company provides customised spoken language interfaces to any device, and for any application including smartphones, robots, cars, call-centres, and games. In September 2015 VocalIQ was acquired by Apple.

SwiftKey uses artificial intelligence to make personalised mobile apps. It is best known for the SwiftKey keyboard, which learns from each individual user to accurately predict their next word and improve autocorrect. Its machine learning and natural language processing technology understands the context of language and how words fit together. SwiftKey products were embedded on more than 100 million devices last year, and the company has just launched an app for iPhones and iPads called SwiftKey Note. The company behind SwiftKey was founded in 2008 by Jon Reynolds and Dr Ben Medlock.

Bloom AI
Bloom develops consumer artificial intelligence software that attempts to befriend humans. Its lead developer, Jason Hadjioannou, showcased a companion AI app for iOS at 2015’s TechCrunch Disrupt in London. The app uses artificial intelligence to learn about and bond with the user, proactively striking up conversations and remembering the personal interests of the individual. Bloom’s companion app is interacted with via natural spoken language and presents one of the most realistic speech synthesis engines currently available. Bloom AI is based in England and was founded by Jason Hadjioannou.

Celaton’s inSTREAM software applies artificial intelligence to labour-intensive clerical tasks and decision making. Every day, businesses receive mountains of information via email and paper. InSTREAM learns to recognise different types of information and process it accordingly. It never forgets, and handles huge volumes of information at high-speed. Like a real person, it asks questions when it is not sure what to do. Andrew Anderson is the founder and CEO of Celaton.

Lincor provides hospital bedside computers to entertain patients and engage them with relevant information and advice. This virtual personal doctor will constantly analyse live personal health data to enable preventative medicine and tailored lifestyle advice. During a hospital visit, the data will be further analysed by hospital AI, giving doctors a more complete and detailed picture. Enda Murphy is the founder and CTO of Lincor Solutions.

Featurespace has developed and sells two software products based on its predictive analytics platform. One is for fraud detection and the other for marketing analytics. Its products use advanced proprietary algorithms to exploit the vast amounts of customer interaction data that many companies collect, delivering insights that can help to detect and prevent fraud and prevent customer churn. Featurespace’s team is led by CEO Martina King (former Managing Director of Aurasma and Yahoo! Europe) and CTO David Excell, who co-founded the company with Professor Bill Fitzgerald, alongside Matt Mills (Commercial Director) and Simon Rodgers (Director of Engineering).

Darktrace uses advanced mathematics to automatically detect abnormal behaviour in organisations in order to manage risks from cyber-attacks. Unlike software that reads log files or puts locks on the technology, Darktrace’s approach allows businesses to protect their information and intellectual property from state-sponsored, criminal groups or malicious employees that many believe are already inside the networks of every critical infrastructure company. Darktrace was founded in Cambridge, UK, in 2013 by mathematicians and machine learning specialists from the University of Cambridge, together with intelligence experts from MI5 and GCHQ.