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AI2’s CEO says the AI wave is still rising

Mike Grabham and Oren Etzioni
Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, answers questions during a chat moderated by Mike Grabham, director of the Seattle chapter of Startup Grind. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

It may seem as if everyone’s already on the bandwagon for artificial intelligence and machine learning, with players ranging from giants like Amazon and Microsoft to startups like Xnor.ai and Canotic — but the head of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2, says there’s still plenty of room to climb aboard.

“Let me assure you, if you have a machine learning-based startup in mind … you’re not late to the party,” AI2’s CEO, Oren Etzioni, told more than 70 people who gathered Feb. 26 at Create33 in downtown Seattle for a Startup Grind event.

Etzioni had a hand in getting the party started back in 2004, with the launch of a startup called Farecast that used artificial intelligence to predict whether airline fares would rise or fall. The company was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 for $115 million and has since faded into the ether. But Etzioni said the basic approach, which involves analyzing huge amounts of data to identify patterns and solve problems, is just hitting its stride.

The potential applications range from spam detection and voice recognition to health care, construction and self-driving cars.

“It’s really a versatile technology, and we’re going to see more and more startups based on machine learning,” Etzioni said.

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