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Orange County on top of artificial intelligence
Source: Lucy Dunn




Undoubtedly, one of the most influential directors in history is Steven Spielberg. Imaginative fantasy is a hallmark of so many of his movies from E.T. to Jurassic Park to Jaws. But one of his most prescient films, 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence — about a robot boy programmed to feel human emotions — predates today’s Alexa, Siri and even IBM’s Watson, designed to play Jeopardy and soundly beat its two best players in 2011.

Beyond directing Alexa to order pizza or play your favorite tunes, artificial intelligence is increasingly part of daily life. So-called “machine learning” is evident in how a thumb print or facial recognition unlocks your smartphone, in e-commerce and media when systems are making “suggestions” on what you might be interested in buying, to autonomous vehicles, to health care experiments where network cancer detection is on par with experienced medical doctors.

Further, artificial intelligence married with big data and analytics presents a new world of management techniques to improve performance in manufacturing to supply chain and goods movement, to forecasting energy demand.

Today, Orange County is a well-oiled incubator for tomorrow’s innovations in artificial intelligence.

With more than 2,400 technology companies already headquartered here, and one of the nation’s top science, technology, engineering and math talent recruitment regions, the building blocks of success are firmly in place. Businesses have access to over 415,000 STEM professionals and — annually — over 30,000 STEM graduates — the most in the Western U.S. It’s no coincidence that Oculus VR — virtual reality — was founded here, and that Blizzard Entertainment continues to dominate the online gaming industry from the heart of Irvine.

Over the last five years, Orange County companies have drawn over $5 billion in venture capital funding, ranking us No. 9 in the nation, with significant investments in cybersecurity, virtual and augmented reality and financial technology. Include San Diego and Los Angeles and the venture capital investment rises to $24 billion, making Orange County the center of regional innovation.

One good example is the Irvine-based company, Cylance: first to apply artificial intelligence, algorithmic science and machine learning to cybersecurity. Cylance has received the most venture capital of any startup involved in artificial intelligence with $177 million in cumulative funding to-date.

Southern California companies account for the majority of California’s artificial intelligence grants awarded by the National Science Foundation, as well as 13 percent of U.S. patents granted to artificial intelligence, the second-highest share of any region nationally, in 2015.

Obviously, artificial intelligence experts are in particularly high demand. But the artificial intelligence talent graduating from this region’s universities, including UCI — the largest engineering and computer sciences program in California — is why Orange County is poised to become a top U.S. center for artificial intelligence.

“A.I. ecosystems with big data analytics, in cybersecurity, virtual reality and advanced transportation will fuel future high-paying job growth in this region, both in their own sectors and in the wider economy due to multiplier effects,” says Dr. Wallace Walrod, chief economic advisor for Orange County Business Council, as well as economic advisor for the Southern California Association of Governments.

Yes, indeed. In 2001, it was Spielberg movie fantasy and now, in 2017, an Orange County reality. Technology companies — come walk Orange County’s red carpet!



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