China and the United States lead the global competition to dominate artificial intelligence (AI), according to a UN study published on Thursday.
China accounted for 17 of the top 20 academic institutions involved in patenting AI and was particularly strong in the fast-growing area of “deep learning” - a machine-learning technique that includes speech recognition systems, according to the study by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The study found US tech giant IBM had by far the biggest AI patent portfolio, with 8,920 patents, ahead of Microsoft with 5,930 and a group of mainly Japanese tech conglomerates.
“The US and China obviously have stolen a lead. They’re out in front in this area, in terms of numbers of applications, and in scientific publications,” WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry told a news conference in Geneva.
The single most popular AI application was computer vision, used in self-driving cars, and mentioned in 49 percent of all AI-related patents.
The WIPO study analyzed international patent filings, scientific publications, litigation filings and acquisition activity, and found there had been as many patent applications for AI since 2013 as in the half-century since the term was coined in the 1950s.
Patent applications in machine learning, which includes techniques used by ride-sharing services to minimize detours, averaged annual growth of 28 percent between 2013 and 2016, the last year for which data is available, because of an 18-month period before confidential applications are publicly disclosed.
Much of that growth came from deep learning, which overtook robotics as it ballooned from 118 patent applications in 2013 to 2,399 in 2016.