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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new list of the top 100 private AI companies shows that health is driving investment in the industry.

Why it matters: COVID-19 has shown the power and potential of AI applications for health, and the growth of the field will continue long after the pandemic has finally ended.

What's happening: Wednesday morning, the business research firm CB Insights released its annual AI 100 ranking of the most promising private companies working in artificial intelligence.

  • The list includes companies headquartered in 12 countries and nearly 20 different industries.
  • The firms on the list have raised more than $11.7 billion in equity funding collectively since 2010, and 12 companies have a valuation over $1 billion.

What they're saying: "The list is a testament to not just the breadth of AI’s impact but also the depth of automation within industries," says Deepashri Varadharajan, lead analyst for emerging tech at CB Insights.

Details: AI companies focused on health care claimed the most spots on the list with eight, including some working on surgical technology, clinical trials and even dental insurance.

  • Health care AI startups enjoyed record funding in the third quarter of 2020, with 122 deals adding up to more than $2 billion.
  • "While health care has always been one of the top categories in the AI 100, the pandemic certainly accelerated AI's adoption in the space," says Varadharajan.

The bottom line: One of the biggest takeaways of the AI 100 ranking is the way artificial intelligence has moved from the digital realm into the physical world — and there's nothing more physical than our health.

Go deeper: Coronavirus accelerates AI in health care

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 7, 2021 - Technology

The perils of AI emotion recognition

Photo: Screenshot of Bryan Walsh playing the Emojify game

New AI tools purport to be able to identify human emotion in images and speech patterns.

Why it matters: Prompted in part by the push of the pandemic, tech companies have been advertising emotion recognition programs, but experts warn they may not work — and may be misused.

Updated Apr 7, 2021 - World

Brazil's daily COVID death toll tops 4,000 for first time

Cemetery workers carry a coffin during the burial of a COVID-19 victim at the Sao Joao municipal cemetery in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on March 26. Photo: Silvio Avila/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil confirmed more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time on Tuesday, the health ministry announced.

Why it matters: A surge in cases and deaths, driven in part by relaxed mitigation measures and a more contagious local variant, has overwhelmed the country's health system.