Will you please Clarifai?

Can a startup shake up the future of Artificial Intelligence while disrupting the fundamental technology and the future of big tech companies?

2.5 Quintillion (2,500,000,000,000,000,000) bytes of data is generated every day i.e. close to 50,000 GB per second. This would fill about 10 million Blu Ray discs which when stacked up equal the height of 4 Eifel Towers. Today 3 billion people have access to the internet – this is equal to the population of 1960. However, a staggering 90% of this data generated is unstructured. Such big unstructured data thus provides an opportunity for data analytics and the development of artificial intelligence for such analyses.

Clarifai, a startup, is building software to help large organizations perform deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence which relies on computer models that simulate the way information is processed by the human brain. The process of deep learning basically involves the training of systems called artificial neural networks on information like pictures, videos, audio etc., which is then analyzed by the software which in response generates fresh information based around its predictions.

As of now, Clarifai’s algorithm basically helps users (largely businesses right now but it soon plans to roll out its services to individuals as well) search through a vast database of pictures and videos. On the flip side, the algorithm also scans and predicts what’s in a picture and video.

Every day there are 311 million Instagram posts, 17000 hours of YouTube footage uploaded, 300 million photos and 4.75 billion pieces of content uploaded and shared on Facebook. These statistics, from 2 companies and 3 platforms, alone present a colossal opportunity for a company like Clarifai, not taking into account the millions of other businesses worldwide and billions of individual users that could benefit from it. Clarifai could essentially use its platform with the embedded deep learning algorithm to target stock image companies with large databases of photos and videos, e-commerce companies such as Amazon and eBay, dating websites, video blogs, online streaming sites, cloud companies, architecture firms, educational institutions, gaming and visual effects companies, movie and animation studios as well as to targeted advertisers. The opportunities and the clientele are boundless.

While it could be debated that a lot of Clarifai’s existing and potential clients are big businesses that could essentially develop the technology for themselves, the challenge is that it takes years and experts in deep learning to get the technology right. It basically requires building learning models that process all the visual data and the difficulty with machine learning currently is that it develops, trains and perfects itself with use over time. Additionally, the field also presents challenges in terms of shortage of good talent. Most of the well-known names in this field have been snatched up by the few big players.

Though it may seem too advanced for a startup, Clarifai is currently in the process of developing an Application Program Interface or an API that will let software developers access Clarifai’s search technology over the web, essentially extending Clarifai’s reach and platform. With such advancement in Clarifai’s technology and its algorithm, Clarifai presents stiff competition to companies like Google and Facebook – companies’ whose future largely depends on the development of artificial intelligence and which have substantially large and advance projects lined up.

Such technology not only has massive prospects for big businesses but also represents the fundamentals on which the future of technology relies on. Deep learning has led to vast improvements in Android’s voice recognition system as well as helped Microsoft in creating a live voice translation system called Skype Translate.

It is of no surprise therefore that Clarifai has raised several rounds of funding worth millions of dollars with many big names betting on the success of its technology while being a lucrative company that many big tech firms are looking to snatch up.

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Student comments on Will you please Clarifai?

  1. Samar,

    Interesting article on AI and Big Data. I don’t quite agree that they’ve insulated themselves from Google or Facebook competition through their developing API. If you look at the link to the article provided (https://www.wired.com/2016/11/giant-corporations-hoarding-worlds-ai-talent/), it seems that it’s a race to stockpile as much AI talent as possible with limited substitutions for that available. Thus, I wonder if Clarifai will find difficulty in advancing their business model should they need to expand their talent pool of AI-oriented people.

    Also, what do you suggest that Clarifai pursue in order to become more successful? Do you anticipate that they will be acquired soon?

    Overall, I think that your article hits the main point of this trend: AI is becoming increasingly relevant for future tech. Tech Crunch is very bullish on the trends as well (https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/06/key-trends-in-machine-learning-and-ai/) and claims that AI will be much more highly integrated into companies. However, this strong interest in AI reminds me of the Dot Com bubble – Do you think that this is just the “flavor of the day” syndrome or is AI here to stay?

  2. ਤੁਹਾਡਾ ਧੰਨਵਾਦ Samar,

    I have two things to say:

    1. Great Job with the title

    2. It seems like Clarifai is the typical case of a startup that seems to be biting off more than they can chew. I am all for aggressive goals, but it seems they need to look for a partner that has the financial power to give them a boost. Not only that, it would be wise for them to look for a partner with proven AI capabilities. AI is about managing absurd amounts of data. This means that it would probably wise for them to partner up with IBM or other companies with similar experience and data analysis. Clarifai is too good a concept for it to be lost just because they are not finding the right partners.

  3. Nice post Samar!!

    AI is such a hot topic these days, and manifests itself in a variety of different techniques, one of with is deep learning and neural networks as your suggested. In your post, you mentioned that Google and Facebook, and likely other big tech companies are working using AI to improve their current product offering as well as develop new ones. In your opinion, why doesn’t a company like Google or Facebook just buy / acquire a company like Clarifai. Certainly, these big tech companies have the capital to do so. Similar question from the other side of the table, how do you think a company like Clarifai (and other startups in a similar space) can stay relevant in the long term, without entertaining acquisition options as exits by the existing big players?

  4. AI is an topic with the potential to revolutionize every field of human endeavor. The largest companies working on AI have started to work together to set ethical standards for research into AI to which every company will adhere. At least, this is the ideal. With the entry of disruptive startups, it would be important to look at how to regulate and set ethical standards when the research institutes themselves are so many, small and fragmented. Would love to hear thoughts on this.

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