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Experts are predicting that in the next 45 years machines could be as smart as humans, or even out-thinking us. But who are the brains behind the artificial brain?


The AI revolution is under way, and it’s already transforming every aspect of our lives.

From scientists and researchers to innovative tech entrepreneurs, here are 12 people pushing the boundaries in everything from deep learning to computer vision, to turn the AI dream into a reality. 

1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk
Credit: Wiki CC by 2.0
  • Nationality: South African
  • Residence: Los Angeles, California
  • Position: Co-founder and Chairman, OpenAI

Warning against the potential dangers of AI, Musk’s focus at Open AI, his not-for-profit company, is on developing safe artificial general intelligence (AGI) in a way that benefits humankind. They carry out innovative research as well as build free software for experimentation, such as OpenAI Universe.

Source: openai.com / biography.com

2. Anita Schjøll Brede

Anita Schjoll Brede
Credit: Facebook
  • Nationality: Norwegian
  • Residence: Oslo, Norway
  • Position: CEO and Co-founder of Iris.ai

Schjøll Brede’s goal is to accelerate research with her AI scientist, Iris.ai. The software uses algorithms to find the most relevant articles among over 60 million papers. Her focus isn’t on profit but on doing good and making life better – for example, by finding a cure for cancer.

Source: iris.ai / nitnit.com / nordic.businessinsider.com / linkedin.com / loweurope.eu

3. Jürgen Schmidhuber

Jurgen Schmidhuber
Credit: Akinhwan (own work) (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  • Nationality: German
  • Residence: Ticino, Switzerland
  • Position: Co-founder and Chief Scientist, Nnaisense

Schmidhuber has developed the algorithms that allow us to speak to our smartphones and been dubbed the father of self-aware robots. His ongoing work is focused on creating artificial neural networks, comparable and eventually better than the human brain.

Source: nnaisense.com / linkedin.com /nytimes.com / theguardian.com

4. Fei-Fei Li

Fei-Fei Li
Credit: http://vision.stanford.edu/people.html
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • Residence: San Francisco Bay, California
  • Position: Chief Scientist of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Google Cloud

A prominent academic in computer vision, Li’s mission is to “democratise AI” – to ensure talent and knowledge is shared beyond big companies to boost diversity, creativity and innovation. Her not-for-profit, AI4ALL, educates the next generation of AI technologists, thinkers and leaders.

Source: forbes.com / ai-4-all.org

5. Dorian Selz

Dorian Selz
Credit: LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/dselz/
  • Nationality: Swiss
  • Residence:  Zurich, Switzerland
  • Position: CEO and Co-founder, Squirro

Pushing data as the world’s most valuable resource, Selz’s company Squirro is the leader in real-time context intelligence. They use artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide the ‘why’ behind data, delivering actionable insight and deep customer understanding.

Source: squirro.com / facebook.com / mycustomer.com

6. Richard Socher

Richard Socher - Salesforce
Credit: Salesforce
  • Nationality: German
  • Residence: Palo Alto, California
  • Position: Chief Scientist, Salesforce

Socher has been described as “one of the prodigies of the artificial intelligence and deep learning space”. His technologies are transforming natural language processing and computer vision by enabling a better understanding of context and sentiment.

Source: socher.org / bizjournals.com / forbes.com

7. Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis
Credit: DeepMind
  • Nationality: British
  • Residence: London, UK
  • Position: Founder and CEO, DeepMind

Nicknamed the superhero of artificial intelligence, Hassibis is helping advance AI by reconnecting it with cognitive neuroscience. At DeepMind he is applying new algorithms in ways that can benefit humanity in areas such as healthcare and climate change.

Source: deepmind.com / linkedin.com / businessinsider.com / theverge.com

8. Rita Cucchiara

Rita Cucchiara
Credit: Imagelab
  • Nationality: Italian
  • Residence: Modena, Italy
  • Position: Full Professor, Imagelab, UNIMORE

Cucchiara has authored over 300 publications. Her research on computer vision, multimedia pattern recognition, machine learning, intelligent sensing and human behaviour understanding (HBU) has been hugely influential in helping companies push AI boundaries.

Source: icpram.org / gputechconf.eu / micc.unifi.it 

9. Anders Hardebring

Anders Hardebring
Credit: Imagimob
  • Nationality: Swedish
  • Residence: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Position: CEO and Co-founder, Imagimob

Hardebring’s team invented and developed Sensorbeat, the first complete package containing all the electronics and AI for understanding the motion of things and people. Intelligent data processing is built into the device itself, enabling real-time applications.

Source: bloomberg.com / imagimob.com / cioapplicationseurope.com

10. Robin Li

Robin Li
Credit: Kevin Krejci (CC BY 2.0)
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • Residence: Beijing, China
  • Position: CEO and Founder, Baidu

Li aspires to own the future of AI in China and beyond. Baidu actively carries out groundbreaking research in areas such as AI, computer vision and deep learning. It also has a suite of AI-powered services called Baidu Brain plus a voice assistant platform, DuerOS.

Source: research.baidu.com / wired.com / fastcompany.com

11. Patrick van der Smagt

Patrick van der Smagt
Credit: LinkedIn
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Residence: Munich, Germany
  • Position: Director of AI Research and Quantum Machine Learning, Volkswagen Group

Van der Smagt is one of Europe’s leading experts in deep learning and robots. His research focus at Volkswagen is on probabilistic inference and control, “creating algorithms that reliably model, predict, and use patterns in optimal decisions”.

Source: volkswagenag.com / crunchbase.com / techcrunch.com

12. Yasser Jadidi

Yasser Jadidi
Credit: bosch-ai.com
  • Residence: Renningen, Germany
  • Position: Global head of AI research, Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence

As well as helping develop cutting-edge AI solutions for intelligent Bosch products, Jadidi is also part of a project to push Germany’s Cyber Valley towards becoming the new AI and robotics hub. The intention is to attract and make better use of research talent.

Source: bosch-ai.com / ft.com

From a range of backgrounds and stances, all these revolutionaries have one thing in common: a desire to push artificial intelligence as far as it can go.