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Why AI is all the rage right now

Tech companies are racing to announce new products, research labs and acquisitions in the AI race. Another sign of the the acceleration of the business world's embrace of all things AI is captured by this Bloomberg chart showing the sharp spike of companies mentioning the technology in their earnings calls.

Business-Focus on Artificial Intelligence Rising: {Analysis on Terminal https://t.co/BoEggN4PY4 } pic.twitter.com/MFm4nVMUBM— Michael McDonough (@M_McDonough) February 28, 2017

Latest examples: Just in the past few days, companies have made AI-driven announcements, such as Pinterest launching a research lab focusing on the technology, and Facebook harnessing AI tools to help prevent suicides on its Live platform. Artificial intelligence is reshaping online retailers' shopping tools. Amazon, Google and Apple are competing to make the best AI-powered personal assistants and they're all buying AI companies to boost their capabilities. Of course, AI is the technology behind autonomous cars being developed by tech companies and car makers across the board.

Why is it taking off? Sandhya Venkatachalam, a general partner at Centerview Capital, laid out these factors in a Forbes column:

  • All devices are connected: Sensors are being put in to everything, turning buildings, machines, homes and clothes into mini-devices able to send data and receive instructions.
  • Computing is cheaper: That means there'll be a processor in everything, and it will be possible to string cheap processors together to get computing scale needed to solve complicated problems "that were unthinkable even a few years ago."
  • Data is super valuable: Connected devices are all generating data all day long, and all that data helps machines learn quickly.
  • Machine learning advances: This is how algorithms discover new patterns in data so machines can predict future outcomes. New machine learning models are better able to take advantage of all the new data being generated.