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PATENT DROP: Amazon’s AI training camp
Plus: JPMorgan’s vibe checker; Sony’s cloud ambitions
Happy Thursday and welcome to Patent Drop!
Today, we’re checking out a filing from Amazon for a faster AI training ground; JPMorgan Chase’s customer service system that automatically detects when you’re annoyed; and Sony’s goal to make the cloud a little more secure.
One quick note: Patent Drop will not publish on Monday, July 3, but will be back in your inbox on Thursday, July 6.
Let's get into it.
#1. Amazon’s rapid-fire testing ground
Amazon wants to help AI models learn even quicker.
The company is seeking to patent a method for “fast annotation of samples” for developing machine learning models. Amazon’s system would essentially be The Sims for AI developers: It allows them to run experiments, discover and take note of problems, and make slight changes until they get their preferred outcome.
Here’s how this works: Amazon’s system offers a “model development environment” that allows a development team to perform “iterative model experiments” to develop machine learning models, specifically for media-based models (aka, those that control things like facial recognition, text and speech processing, autonomous vehicle control and more).
This development environment is equipped with a “media data management interface” that allows its users to annotate and make changes to the model’s training data as they run experiments. Users can run both training runs and test runs of the models in this environment. This system also comes with a “diagnosis interface,” which breaks down how a model performs to help users determine what needs to be fixed.
Amazon noted that machine learning model training and development is typically time-consuming and error-prone, as it involves a ton of labor-intensive, tedious human-led tasks and close supervision by data scientists. Plus, once that training is done, novice users often can’t diagnose problems with the model or determine how exactly to fix it.
Like most tech companies, Amazon has been recently loud about its commitment to AI. As it races to play catch-up, the company last week vowed to invest $100 million in what it calls the AWS Generative AI Innovation Center, which will help its cloud tenants use generative AI in healthcare, financial services and manufacturing. In the consumer space, the company is building a conversational AI chatbot for “reimagining Amazon Search,” according to a job description reported by Bloomberg in May.
But Amazon has some fierce competition. Both Google and Microsoft are making headlines for infusing AI into just about every move they make. However, Amazon may have a leg up as the AI race continues: its dominance in cloud technology, said Irusha Peiris, retail analyst and portfolio manager for William O’Neil. Amazon isn’t too far behind competitors, he said, but boosting its AI offerings to serve up to its already massive AWS customer base will likely help keep them from moving over to Azure or Google Cloud.
“Whenever they come out with more AI offerings, it makes it that much easier to upsell to those customers to help them take more advantage of their data,” Peiris told me. “Amazon really has to — everyone has to, on the cloud side — have some of these offerings. If you don’t, all the sudden, you're severely lacking in something that's in tremendous demand.”
Amazon is facing more than just competition. The company, along with the industry as a whole, faces a wave of rhetoric from lawmakers, critics and technologists about the future that AI could bring. In March, a group called The Future of Life Institute started a petition to pause “giant AI experiments,” which caught the attention of the likes of Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Andrew Yang.
Since then, more insiders have stepped forward warning about AI’s danger. In early May, AI trailblazer Dr. Geoffrey Hinton stepped down from his position at Google to "speak freely" about the risks of the tech. Later that month, the Center for AI Safety released an open letter claiming that AI poses a “risk of extinction” that needs to be mitigated, signed by Hinton as well as OpenAI’s Sam Altman, Google DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis, Bill Gates and dozens of other tech leaders.
But as it stands, big tech firms show no signs of stopping their breakneck AI race. If this patent filing reveals anything, they’re only interested in speeding things up.
#2. “How can (A)I help you today?”
AI has weaved its way into customer service far beyond just your average chatbot. Companies are now using it to determine just how long it can leave you on hold.
JPMorgan Chase wants to patent a system that determines “dissatisfaction data” in real-time during customer service interactions using machine learning. First, this system generates a real-time stream of transcript data during a phone call or an online chat between a customer and an agent. Next, a machine learning model that’s been trained on “predefined complaint data” takes this transcript and compares it to its training data.
The model then comes up with a “similarity score,” from this comparison to determine how likely it is that the customer is dissatisfied from whether or not this score is above or below a certain “threshold value.” For example, if there is only an 80% match between the live call data and the complaint training data, the caller may be marked as dissatisfied, JPMorgan noted.
Depending on the score, a customer service agent may be automatically given suggestions to resolve the issue, such as information on company policies and a “de-escalation script,” which pop up on their work computer. JPMorgan said that this helps alleviate the burden of angry customers from agents while improving accuracy in amending customer complaints.
JPMorgan said that conventional customer service call systems lack the capability to automatically identify when a caller is complaining about something in real-time, noting that “conventional tools may only provide manual identification of complaints resulting in unnecessary escalations as well as resulting in inferior quality and consistency issues.”
JPMorgan has built up quite the track record in recent months for tech developments, particularly in AI: The company has sought patents for low- and no-code machine learning tech, an AI-based talent recruiting tool and a matchmaking algorithm for companies and investors. The financial institution also sought to trademark a ChatGPT-esque AI investment advisor called IndexGPT in May. More may be in store, too: CEO Jamie Dimon said in his annual letter to shareholders that the company has “more than 300 AI use cases in production” spanning topics like risk, customer experience and fraud.
While this tech could certainly be used to help handle its own customer service calls, the financial institution could just be adding to its massive and ever-growing arsenal of tech products to offer to the companies it works with.
Currently, a lot of AI-based customer experience innovations available typically use their prediction capabilities for things like product recommendations, advertising and sales. This patent shows that the concept of AI-based prediction, rather than human reaction, is being implemented in customer service scenarios as well, said Eradj Khaidarov, CTO at enterprise customer experience platform IrisCX.
“The ability to be predictive and preemptively trying to solve issues for customers, it's something that I'm sure a lot of people are trying to put their finger on,” said Khaidarov.
AI chatbots have long been deployed in customer service scenarios, but often they’re “not an effective medium of communication,” as they are often only capable of “triaging your top level issues,” leading an upset customer to request a human over a bot anyways, said Khaidarov. Rather than actually handling requests, these kinds of chatbots are used just to “alleviate the pressure of not having enough staff to support incoming calls,” he noted.
While JPMorgan’s tech is meant to partner with human agents, implementing tech for those agents to automatically deduce and take care of problems more quickly could likely go a long way in alleviating hours-long hold times.
#3. Sony’s cloudy day
Sony wants to lock down the cloud: The company filed a patent application for configurations for the “secure use of cloud technology.”
Sony’s system is essentially trying to prevent misconfigurations that happen when a business sets up shop in a cloud environment. Such misconfigurations can be any error that occurs when onboarding with a new cloud platform, including things like overly permissive access, inconsistent monitoring, or even just a weak password, and can result in vulnerabilities that can lead to cybersecurity attacks.
Sony’s patent gets quite technical, but to break it down simply, this system consolidates a bunch of standard, secure settings for configuring a cloud environment in a way that’s “enterprise-friendly,” addressing risks like insecure identity, access management, threat monitoring and auditability. For example, this system includes an audit-logging function that rapidly responds to security incidents, or threat-monitoring that gives “real-time visibility” into existing, active risks to address.
Sony noted that deploying cloud infrastructure involves hundreds of different configuration options. But when getting set up on a new cloud environment, some systems don’t have any standardized guidance on which configurations are the most secure.
The result of this, Sony said, can be “cloud environments with insecure identity and access management implementations, inconsistent security configuration practices, and nearly zero auditability.”
Sony has some cloud offerings, but it’s far from a major player. On the consumer side, Sony’s been plugging away at cloud gaming for nearly a decade. The company also has reportedly been gearing up for a big cloud gaming push: in April, The Verge reported that Sony was hiring 22 positions for cloud gaming tech. But CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said in an interview with The Financial Times in early June that cloud gaming is “very tricky” to pull off, citing content delivery delays as a major issue.
On the enterprise side, Sony in September rolled out its Creators’ Cloud, a platform for the media and entertainment industries that allows creators to connect cameras to the cloud to upload content directly.
Trevor Morgan, VP of product at OpenDrives, said that this patent could be applicable to both its gaming and Creators’ Cloud ambitions. For media and entertainment companies, migrating to cloud technology without the right security configurations could put their creative IP at risk of cybersecurity attacks, said Morgan. For gamers, meanwhile, misconfigurations in cloud gaming can mean anything from a compromised individual account “all the way up to compromised competitions,” said Morgan.
When breaking into an already-competitive industry like cloud technology, nailing down cybersecurity is critical, Morgan said, especially when you’re up against the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Sony may be trying to get ahead of potential missteps with this patent, he added, by showing “due diligence and thought leadership.”
“When you're doing a foray into something, you better make sure you're attending to the cybersecurity aspects of it first,” said Morgan. “Taking a reactive posture not only kills you with potential litigation, but it kills you reputationally.”
A few more before you swipe away.
Nvidia wants to make training robots an easier task. The company is researching neural networks that “generate robotic task demonstration,” essentially taking the manual labor out of training robots to do certain jobs.
Microsoft wants to know if you’re taking cybersecurity seriously. The company is seeking to patent a system that tracks a user’s reaction to a cybersecurity alert in order to send better security alerts.
Google doesn’t want to interrupt your flow. The company is seeking to patent tech that essentially predicts when your content is going to be interrupted by a notification, such as when a food delivery driver is expected to arrive while you’re watching a movie.
What else is new?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office inadvertently exposed the private addresses of more than 60,000 filers in a data leak affecting public records between February 2020 and March 2023.
Virgin Galactic launched its first commercial space tourism flight this morning. The 90-minute mission is part of a 2019 contract that the company signed to carry three Italian Air Force and National Research Council of Italy officials to suborbital space.
Moody’s will use Microsoft and OpenAI to create an AI tool to help customers with risk assessment.