Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

The Memory Trick Making Computers Seem Smarter

One startup’s approach to teaching computers to learn shows the value of applying new ideas to machine learning.

After several decades in the doldrums, AI is experiencing quite a renaissance. In recent years, amazing progress has been made using so-called deep learning, training algorithms with large amounts of data so that they can recognize subtle patterns. Such approaches have enabled computers to recognize faces in an image or the text of speech, often with eerily human accuracy.

It’s becoming clear, however, that fundamentally new approaches will be needed if machines are to go demonstrate more meaningful intelligence. One technique, being applied by a Silicon Valley startup called MetaMind, shows how adding novel memory capabilities to deep learning can produce impressive results when it comes to answering questions about the content of images. The company was founded by Richard Socher, a machine-learning expert who left an academic post at Stanford to found the company.

Socher’s creation uses what it calls a dynamic memory network (DMN) to enable computers to infer useful things from various inputs. These let a deep-learning system store and update facts as it parses more information. Previously the company showed how its system can feed on different sentences and figure out how to answer some fairly sophisticated questions that require inference. This ability has now been applied to answering questions about the contents of images.

Richard Socher, founder of MetaMind.

As a piece on MetaMind in the New York Times explains, the results are quite basic, and nothing like as sophisticated as a human’s ability to understand what’s going on in images. But the technology shows how new approaches, especially ones that take inspiration from the way memory seems to work in biological brains, may hold the key to the next big step forward in AI.

(Read more: New York Times, “Computers Are Getting a Dose of Common Sense,” “Teaching Machines to Understand Us,” “Next Big Test for AI: Making Sense of the World”)

Hear more about machine learning from the experts at the EmTech Digital Conference, March 26-27, 2018 in San Francisco.

Learn more and register
Richard Socher, founder of MetaMind.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.