Artificial intelligence has suddenly caught the attention of the biggest cloud companies. Can you guess why? It's not so much that they're interested in the tech as the resources required to run it.
Much like big data processing, artificial intelligence takes a lot of compute, storage, and memory, and by happy coincidence, that's precisely what the cloud infrastructure vendors are selling.
That's not to say that AWS, Microsoft, Google, and IBM don't see dollar signs in AI beyond the ability to sell infrastructure resources. Each one has been working at positioning themselves as a leader around AI with different product sets, but it doesn't hurt that this is a resource-intensive task for computers.
AI is the technology that is supposed to mimic human thinking, and as such it's going to require a huge amount of resources to make that happen. You're probably hearing a lot about it lately but for the wrong reasons. The scary headlines suggest that AI is going to take your job and eventually replace humans if we don't stop it now. The fact is that AI is very much in its infancy and we have a long way to go before it can do sophisticated human thinking or replace your job.
For now it's doing some interesting tasks like pattern recognition to recognize faces in a crowd from photos, or expert systems capable of searching and finding answers in large knowledge bases. For example, IBM Watson can review a corpus of information extremely quickly and come back with an answer for a researcher.
Doing the work humans can't
A human could also eventually come up with the same answer, but this is something for which machines are particularly well suited. They can review massive amounts of data quickly, something the human brain simply isn't capable of doing.
In fact, research has shown that when you put humans and computers together, you get a powerful combination. When IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the world's premier chess player in 1997, it was considered a major breakthrough for computing power and AI, but in 2005, two amateur chess players using three computers were able to beat the best humans and machines. It turns out when you put humans together with machines, they perform at a higher level than the machines by themselves.
All that aside, artificial intelligence is the next computing frontier, and while it will likely take some time to achieve meaningful breakthroughs, one thing that's clear is that the cloud computing giants will continue to build tools to help process all that data — and collect a nice paycheck while they're at it, no doubt.