Microsoft’s looking to invest in entrepreneurs creating the future of artificial intelligence

Microsoft is backing a competition that is seeking to find entrepreneurs who are “pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence”.

Innovate.AI is searching for start-ups in North America, Europe and Israel who are developing cutting-edge AI for intelligent apps, services or platforms that will help companies and society.

One start-up per region will be handed $1 million in venture funding and $500,000 in Microsoft Azure credits. In addition to those three winners, the AI for Good prize will see a further $500,000 in funding paid by Microsoft and $500,000 in Azure credits handed to the applicant that can show the best use of AI to improve society.

“At Microsoft, the future is rooted in the advancement of AI technologies,” said Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president of Microsoft Ventures.

“We’re excited to launch this competition with a strong group of venture capitalists that recognizes the importance of leveraging these technologies to amplify human ingenuity and power innovation in AI forward.”

Alongside the corporate venture arm of Microsoft, Microsoft Ventures, Innovate. AI is also backed by the venture capital firms Madrona Venture Group, Notion Capital and Vertex Ventures Israel.

Up to 10 finalists will qualify from each region for a chance to pitch their innovation in person, but they must introduce a product, service or platform that utilises or intends to utilise AI techniques, as defined by relevant scientific research.

The start-ups will also only be considered if they have raised less than $4 million in combined equity funding or loans..

Image courtesy of Microsoft reporter

“Start-ups are already able to create significant businesses based on AI at the platform and application levels,” said S Somasegar, managing director of Madrona, which manages more than $1.3 billion.

“Now that they are leveraging emerging AI platforms, opportunities are increasing to create not only a great business, but one that has a strong and positive impact on society.

“As partners with our companies, we work every day to foster the kind of innovation that will change lives, and we are excited to work with Microsoft Ventures to identify passionate founders and teams that will build the next generation of intelligent applications.”

Since launching Microsoft Ventures last year, Microsoft has invested in more than 40 start-ups, and the company has also formed an AI fund to support start-ups focused on inclusive growth and a positive impact on society.

Start-ups have until December 31 to submit their entry to Innovate.AI.

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Skydio unveils its obstacle-dodging, thrill-seeking, AI-powered drone

An autonomous drone startup founded by former MIT researchers has today launched its R1, a fully autonomous flying camera that follows its subjects through dense and challenging environments.

In a promotional video, launched to introduce the autonomous camera, R1 can be seen following an athlete as she parkours her way through dense woodland.

The drone’s makers Skydio have explained that the camera combines artificial intelligence, computer vision, and advanced robotics and works by anticipating how people move, so R1 can make intelligent decisions about how to get the smoothest, most cinematic footage in real-time.

“The promise of the self-flying camera has captured people’s imaginations, but today’s drones still need to be flown manually for them to be useful,” said Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder of Skydio.

“We’ve spent the last four years solving the hard problems in robotics and AI necessary to make fully autonomous flight possible. We’re incredibly excited about the creative possibilities with R1, and we also believe that this technology will enable many of the most valuable drone applications for consumers and businesses over the coming years.”

Launching today is the Frontier Edition of R1, which is aimed at athletes, adventurers, and creators.

This version of R1 is powered by the Skydio Autonomy Engine, enabling it to see and understand the world around it so that it can fly safely at speeds of upto 25mph while avoiding obstacles.

The autonomous drone is fitted with 13 cameras, which gives it the ability to map and understand the world in real-time, allowing it to be fully autonomous and independently capture footage that in Skydio’s words “once required a Hollywood film crew” and will “enable a new type of visual storytelling”.

The R1 “Frontier Edition” is available for order now on Skydio’s website for $2,499.