Watch out: The AI bulls are running again

Scott Kirsner, The Boston Globe, July 7, 2016

These days, not only is IBM back in Cambridge, but the enthusiasm and funding for AI companies in Boston and nationally have returned — accompanied by a whole new raft of buzzphrases suggesting that computers are getting brainier, from “deep learning” to “synaptic intelligence.”

But unlike the 1980s, when technology fresh from the academic lab stumbled out into the world looking for problems to solve, many of today’s companies are focused on specific business problems. Nara Logics of Cambridge, for instance, helps large companies anticipate whether “an event happening within your supply chain is going to become a problem — and what you can do about it,” explains chief executive Jana Eggers. The company says its software can also analyze financial transactions in real-time to spot instances of fraud that don’t necessarily fit historical patterns.

“Why is it spring now after all the AI winters?” asks Vivjan Myrto, a managing director of the Boston investment firm Hyperplane, which has put money into Spiro and Talla. “AI techniques have come of age, and you’re seeing big advances in hardware. It’s a really historic moment.”

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