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AI Weekly: 5 takeaways from Microsoft Build and Google I/O

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The AI Weekly usually dives deep into a single subject, but with Microsoft and Google hosting their annual developer conferences, this is no ordinary week.

Each conference — here’s everything from Microsoft’s Build and everything from Google’s I/O — resulted in dozens of headlines, making it tough to interpret what really matters. Well, here’s a handful of important developments to follow from both events at the heart of the AI world.

FPGA and TPU
Perhaps the most important advances in computing power for training AI systems announced this week were the beta release of Microsoft’s Project Brainwave, which uses field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips, and Google’s plans to release a third generation of tensor processing unit (TPU) chips.

Two new AI services worth following
Also announced this week: The ML Kit SDK for fast application of AI for Android and iOS developers is now available, and edge deployment of Microsoft Cognitive Services is coming later this year.

Duplex is bananas
Duplex is without question the most talked about news from both Build and I/O. The conversational AI allows Google Assistant to make phone calls to schedule appointments or make reservations in a human-sounding voice. It’s been called unethical and presented in a way that reflects Google’s corporate DNA. I call it the beginning of AI carrying out real-world tasks for customers and businesses.

It’s still just an experiment, but Duplex is about getting people and businesses used to the idea of a bot carrying out activity in the world on your behalf.

New Google Assistant features, new Google Home countries, new Lens computer vision, and new tools for voice app developers were also announced this week.

Alexa and Cortana and the idea of a multi-assistant world
If Duplex was Google’s big digital assistant moment, a demo of Alexa-Cortana together for the first time was the wow moment at Build.

What happened in the demo wasn’t all that shocking, really — the same capabilities you’d expect when speaking with either assistant — but it was the first time we got to see Cortana speak through Alexa on an Amazon Echo and Alexa speak through Cortana on a Windows 10 PC.

And it was another opportunity for Amazon and Microsoft to share their view that we will live in a multi-assistant world.

The Echo is the most popular smart speaker in the United States, and is now available in more than 80 countries, while Cortana is available on hundreds of millions of personal computers running Windows 10.

There’s still no release date planned for Alexa-Cortana to be available to the public, but when it does happen, the consumer response to the partnership will have a lot to say about the future of AI assistants and conversational computing.

Google’s new AI chief talks plans for the future
Shortly after CEO Sundar Pichai left the stage, Jeff Dean, the former Google Brain lead named AI chief one month ago, shared his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities ahead for Google. Of note: He’s in favor of the development of AI with more general intelligence, and is not in favor of Google taking part in the creation of autonomous weapons.

One high-order number from this week worth remembering that Dean mentioned in his talk: TensorFlow, the open source framework for machine learning, has been downloaded more than 13 million times.

Thanks for reading,

Khari Johnson

AI Staff Writer

P.S. Please enjoy this video about some of the quickest ways to get into TensorFlow, the most popular open source framework for machine learning out there.

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