AI2’s Oren Etzioni to entrepreneurs: It’s not too late to ride the machine-learning wave

AI2’s Oren Etzioni to entrepreneurs: It’s not too late to ride the machine-learning wave

2:08pm, 27th February, 2019
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 and to startups like and — but the head of Seattle’s , 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 Tuesday evening 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 and has 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. He demonstrated one of the applications for the Startup Grind crowd, First, Etzioni played a series of short, narrated video clips advertising vacations, fashions and home loans. Then he asked the audience to guess what innovation was reflected in the clips. Several attendees guessed that the images were assembled by an AI agent, but Etzioni said AI produced the voice rather than the pictures. The videos actually served as a sneak peek at the next-generation text-to-speech conversion program produced by one of the stealthy startups working with AI2. “The goal isn’t to create commercials,” Etzioni said. “But think about somebody who can’t speak. All they can do is type, but they don’t want to sound like ‘Ste-phen Haw-king’ … with apologies to the late Stephen Hawking. This is really quite natural, and all it requires is to type, and you can get a variety of different voices.”