Robot "Pepper" communicates with journalists and guests at the Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images

For all the talk around artificial intelligence, recent surveys show just 3%–4% of firms are actually using it for broad-scale business.

Driving the news: Microsoft used a San Francisco event Tuesday to show off some of the companies that are using the technology effectively.

  • AB InBev has a platform called SmartBarley that gathers data from 8,000 of the company's suppliers to help them improve yields and lower their environmental impact. The growers agree to share their data with AB InBev, which in turn shares back the AI-derived insights with the farmers. "We are not a digital company. We are a company that is being digitized," AB InBev's Tassilo Festetics says.
  • Arccos Golf showed how it's using AI to create a virtual caddie for golfers that is able to assess a player's stroke, weather and other conditions. The startup says the early results are promising, with customers shaving an average of nearly 4 strokes off their game.

Even if they don't know how to get started, companies are interested in the technology, says Julia White, a VP in Microsoft's Azure unit. "People recognize the promise of AI," she says.

The big picture: The problem, though, is that most still don't know what it takes to get started, White adds. Both Microsoft and the customers on stage Tuesday agreed that it mostly boils down to data. If you want to use AI in your business, you need lots of data and it has to be in a common format.

"Everyone wants to focus on the sizzle," White says. "Where’s my new bot? Well what’s your bot going to learn from?"

In response, Microsoft is increasing its investment in tools that help companies build their own chatbot. The company announced this morning it's purchasing XOXCO, maker of Howdy, one of the first commercial chatbots.

Yes, but: Expectations around the AI business are often overblown today. White acknowledges this, but puts the blame on other companies.

  • "There was so much hype around Watson and other things that have been disappointing," White says.

Doubts persist: Maribel Lopez, of Lopez Research, says her research shows that just 3% of companies have invested enough in AI to see a significant return on investment, while 89% said that the big cloud companies have overpromised on AI.

Flashback: A year ago, MIT-Boston Consulting Group released a survey that also said American business executives expect AI to have a large impact on their companies but few were actually adopting the needed technologies.

Go deeper

Updated 21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 20,532,835 — Total deaths: 747,845— Total recoveries: 12,743,275Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 5,193,266 — Total deaths: 165,934 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America's two-sided COVID-19 response America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.
Updated 40 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

France reported more than 2,500 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours — the largest single-day number since May. French officials said the situation was "clearly worsening," per France 24.

By the numbers: Over 745,600 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and over 20.4 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. Almost 12.7 million have recovered from the virus.

51 mins ago - Health

U.S. reports 1,485 coronavirus deaths in a single day

Healthcare workers handling coronavirus tests in Los Angeles on August 11. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S. reported 1,485 deaths due to the coronavirus on Wednesday, COVID Tracking Project data shows.

Why it matters: It's the highest single-day COVID-19 death toll since May 15, when the country reported 1,507 deaths. The U.S. has seen a total of 157,758 deaths from the virus.