If you think about Artificial Intelligence (AI) most likely names like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Amazon will come to mind. Silicon Valley and Seattle seem to be the hot spots for AI. At least they get most attention in the media. With digital assistants (think Siri, Alexa, Cortana, google now) many people have used AI in one way or the other. And of course with Facebook and Amazon there are two internet giant which invest heavily in AI solutions that many people are using on a daily basis. May be you have heard about IBM Watson – if only because of the famous win in the Jeopardy show a few years ago. Or the marketing campaign for Watson over the last few years.
Not so many people will know about the AI developments in China – you can read more about this in a recent post.
But what about Germany? It doesn’t get much attention. It it is true that Europe is behind the US and China in capturing the opportunities of AI.
But there is still a lot going on here.
It reminds me a bit at the early years at SAP (I have worked there for many years). In the late 90ies SAP was not known – even not in Germany. Because of the focus on business software there was not much visibility to endusers (outside of SAP customer base). The software was first class, german engineering. But marketing was not always on top of peoples mind. It was more important to have nearly perfect solutions before starting to talk in public about it. Very different to other companies which started a marketing campaign even before the first solution was available.
In fact you need both – great products and good marketing. I think there are some similarities to the AI activities in Germany these days. There is a lot going on – but not many people know it. Partly because the focus is on business solutions. Think about Industry 4.0, intelligent manufacturing, robots and AI. In part because it is very hard to compete with Apple or Amazon or Google to get peoples attention.
Have your heard about deepl.com ? A translation solution from Cologne, Germany.
Devin Coldeway and Frederic Lardinois argue that tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook are all applying the lessons of machine learning to translation, but a small company called DeepL has outdone them all and raised the bar for the field. Its translation tool is just as quick as the outsized competition, but more accurate and nuanced than any we’ve tried.
DeepL was born from Linguee, a translation tool that has existed for years and, while popular, never quite reached the level of Google Translate — the latter has a huge advantage in brand and position, after all. With Linguee they had an enormous database of translations, a very strong base to train DeepL, which is an AI solution based on convolutional neural networks. Try it out and compare it to google translate!
What about depart.io? A solution from Tübingen, Germany.
As a passionated photographer I find this solution amazing. DeepArt is a web-based application that enables its users to turn photographs into artworks. You have to see it to believe it. It is also based on deep neural networks and can for example mimics the styles of some of history’s greatest painters for your pictures. There is a lot behind this – you can learn more about here and here
So there are some great examples of AI solutions from Germany for everyone to use. Just that not many people know about it yet – unfortunately.
The other – and may be even more important – area for AI in Germany are business solutions. No wonder in a country that has many of the world leading manufacturing and automotive companies and is known as the driver of Industry 4.0. Which by the way is also the focus of the Hannover Messe next year – the leading trade fair for industrial technology.
A great example for AI leadership in Germany is the Cyber Valley initiative in Baden-Württemberg.
Cyber Valley is bringing together international key players from science and industry to concentrate their research activities in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Supported through the State of Baden-Württemberg, the Cyber Valley partners will establish new research groups and professorships in the fields of machine learning, robotics, and computer vision in a new research center in the Stuttgart-Tübingen area in Germany. Many leading companies like BMW, Daimler, Porsche, Bosch as well as Facebook are supporting this initiative.
And just recently Amazon – one of the leading AI companies – announced it will invest nearly $1.5 million in Cyber Valley.
Another example which I know quite well is IBM.
IBM has opened their Watson IoT headquarters in Munich earlier this year – its biggest investment in Europe in more than two decades. There is of course a reason why IBM has chosen Germany. The centre will allow IBM and its partners to devise industry-specific cognitive services fueled by IoT data.
These are just a few examples – there are many more. Germany might not always have the best marketing – but don’t underestimate the engineering and research capabilities.
To be continued.