A new study used AI to track the explosive growth of AI innovation.

What’s new: Researchers from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deployed natural language processing to track AI’s increasing presence in four decades of patent data. They found that the technology is involved in one out of six current applications.

What they did: The researchers trained an LSTM to analyze the text of nearly 12 million technology patents filed between 1976 and 2019 for language that described subcategories of AI including computer vision, language modeling, and evolutionary algorithms.

  • The number of patents that include some form of AI grew slowly in the latter half of the 20th century, then surged. The annual tally of AI-related patent filings, currently over 60,000, has more than doubled since 2002.
  • The researchers developed their own list of AI subcategories. The most popular were planning/control — processes that identify, create, and execute activities to achieve specific goals — and knowledge processing — used to streamline or automate tasks, for instance by detecting accounting errors. Each showed up in about 40,000 patent applications per year. Hardware and computer vision were next, with mentions in 10,000 to 20,000 filings a year.
  • IBM, which has operated for more than a century, leads the U.S. in total AI-related patents, with 46,752 granted. Microsoft, which started in 1975, trails with less than half that amount. Google, founded in 1998, holds third place.

Behind the news: A 2019 report from the World Intellectual Property Organization found that 50 percent of machine learning patents globally were issued since 2013. China leads the world in AI patents, followed closely by the U.S.

Why it matters: These numbers give a concrete sense of the speed of innovation in AI and the ever-wider range of applications in which it’s used.

We’re thinking: We’re fans of AI technology!

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