7 Innovators Investing Heavily in Artificial Intelligence

The people advancing artificial intelligence (AI) are in no small way leading the planet into the future, and we should all be paying attention. Their contributions in the AI space -- be it in research and development, financial investment, or delivering products and services -- are driving progress and setting the stage of innovations to come. Here are seven key AI innovators to keep an eye on, in no particular order.

1. Elon Musk
The founder of Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company is easily one of the most recognizable thought leaders in AI. He makes frequent media and conference appearances and will reportedly speak at an AI gathering together with Alibaba CEO Jack Ma in Shanghai at the end of August. Musk of course is best known for founding Tesla and leading the push toward autonomous vehicles, but his SpaceX venture is likewise a pioneer, and recently launched the first AI-powered robot into space.

Musk has been vocal about the potential dangers of AI, yet he is also a founder of NeuraLink, a company working to develop implantable brain-machine interfaces to merge human brains with artificial intelligence. Musk's vision, energy and passion have made him an inspiring figure to a generation of AI engineers and developers, and he'll likely continue to act as both visionary and celebrity of the industry' technological future.

2. Jeff Bezos
At the helm of Amazon, Bezos has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time -- including transforming the retail industry and helping launch the cloud revolution. His contributions to AI have been no less impactful, thanks to the Alexa AI, which manages to fuse personal assistant software with smart home technology.

Beyond Alexa, Amazon is slowly turning itself into an AI powerhouse with its investments into machine learning to create a credible framework for AI such as its voice-based home appliance Echo. It's also developing machine learning platforms for businesses and making diversified investments in startups using AI to develop plant-based food formulas.

3. James Richman
James Richman is a Latvian-born billionaire investor who has big plans for the future, including autonomous vehicles, space travel, and pouring more funds into AI research and development.

The finance tycoon has successfully managed his private fund, JJ Richman, for more than a decade, and is a big believer of investing in disruptive technologies. He's taken stakes in a parade of successful, high-profile tech companies, including Uber, Tesla, and many others. Now it's clear that he is betting big on AI to transform the global economy.

4. Larry Page
First as the CEO of Google and now as the CEO of Alphabet Inc., Page has positioned his companies as world leaders in AI development and services. While Alphabet is engaged in the self-driving car game, its greatest innovation is the DeepMind AI, which employs deep learning on a convolutional neural network and using a form of Q-learning to achieve a general purpose AI.

The AlphaGo program built on the DeepMind AI famously beat the GO world champion in a match in 2018, and the system has shown an incredible ability to learn quickly, mastering complex games and puzzles previously believed conquerable only by humans.

5. Jensen Huang
Huang has created something special as the CEO of Nvidia. Originally focused on gaming graphics, Nvidia has transformed itself into the unquestioned leader in chipsets and platforms for autonomous vehicles.

Inside its 13,000-square-foot AI robotics research lab in Seattle, a small team of researchers are hard at work building the company's artificial intelligence-powered future and exploring the possibilities of transforming disciplines like logistics, manufacturing and healthcare. On top of this, Huang has developed amazing platforms for virtual reality, placing Nvidia firmly at the forefront both in tech hardware and AI.

6. Dr. Gill Pratt
As CEO of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), Dr. Pratt is the guy Toyota tasked to set up its $1 billion robotics lab. Pratt's research aims to enhance the safety of automobiles, with the ultimate goal of safe driverless cars.

The TRI is focused on developing cars with what is known as Level 5 autonomy, which requires no human presence at all. The initiative aims to translate outdoor mobility technology into products for indoor mobility, as well as to accelerate scientific discovery by applying techniques from AI and machine learning that could help pave the way to safer autonomous vehicles in the future.

7. Satya Nadella
The CEO of tech giant Microsoft has guided a strong move for his company into AI, building a fleet of cloud-based Azure services and tools to make AI more accessible to developers. There's lesser-known services like active translation AI, which employs neural networks to enable end-to-end translation via Skype.

Under Nadella's leadership, Microsoft has worked with enterprise partners to bring AI to their core offerings. For example, Microsoft AI drives the Aura service that Brazilian telecom firm Telefonica uses to automate customer service interactions over voice and text.

The pace of advancement in the field of AI is breathtaking, and that progress will only accelerate as investment and research continues. From autonomous vehicles to curing diseases, AI stands to solve some of humanity's most vexing challenges. It also brings serious concern, as organizations and governments struggle to understand the impacts that AI may bring.

No doubt AI will impact our lives more and more in the years ahead, which is why it's important to keep an eye on the people driving advancement in the sector.

About the Author

Michael Volkmann is a tech entrepreneur with a focus on business operations and finance, and works with small businesses to help manage their mergers and acquisitions When not in front of a monitor thinking about the future of AI and robotics, he spends his time snorkeling and traveling.