Audi A8 - Artificial intelligence

More vision of the future

From digital assistants capable of learning to piloted driving—relying on artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be a matter of course for many aspects of everyday life. Seven pioneers in the field of AI and their visions of tomorrow’s world.

Steffan Heuer (copy) & Boris Schmitz (illustrations)

Integrated intelligence

Andrew Ng

Andrew Ng wants AI to relieve people of the burden of repetitive drudgery—whether it’s dealing with traffic or managing a medical practice—freeing up mental resources to enjoy the things that make life exciting.

Ng believes that machine intelligence will increasingly become part and parcel of our daily working and private lives. “AI is the new electricity. It will radically transform nearlyevery major industry—healthcare, transportation, entertainment, manufacturing—enriching the lives of countless people. I am more optimistic than ever about the fantastic future we will build with AI,” he explained in March 2017 when he unexpectedly announced his departure from Baidu.

Jen-Hsun Huang

This man loves supercomputers and superlatives. And as CEO of graphics chip manufacturer Nvidia, Jen-Hsun Huang delivers them in the form of tech that runs AI in smart cars.

This is why his company is concentrating increasingly on AI in the automotive sector. In order to expedite the technical implementation and proliferation of vehicle AI systems, starting with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), Nvidia has entered into partnerships with major manufacturers and suppliers, including AUDI AG.

Fei-Fei Li

AI systems are like three-year-olds who see the world around them and try to understand it. If you give them the right training wheels, they can put together a perfect photo album entirely unaided, says Fei-Fei Lee.

The fact that some AI systems can “see” the world is thanks to researcher Fei-Fei Li. For more than 15 years, she has drilled down into the topic, fi rst at the California Institute of Technology and subsequently as director of the Stanford Artifi cial Intelligence and Stanford Vision Labs. In this capacity, Li was largely responsible for the development of ImageNet, a huge database of images used to help software learn more quickly what a table, animal or human looks like. The technology sets the standard for the major photo-sharing services.

Jürgen Schmidhuber

Truly exceptional AI should literally rise above and outgrow its human creators to conquer space. At least, that’s what German computer scientist and artist Jürgen Schmidhuber believes.

The father of modern AI studied and conducted research on the topic of artifi cial intelligence and robotics at the Technical University of Munich. Today, he is co-director at the Dalle Molle Institute for Artifi cial Intelligence Research in Lugano, Switzerland. Together with Sepp Hochreiter, a student of Schmidhuber’s at the time, he co-authored a paper as far back as 1997 that laid the groundwork for contemporary machine learning. The concept of long short-term memory is key to software solving diffi cult problems faster, better and more eff ectively by using recall—much as people do. Today, this technology can be found in such applications as Google’s speech recognition.


 “The industrial revolution freed humanity from much repetitive physical drudgery. I now want AI to free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery.” Researcher Andrew Ng is confident that machine intelligence will enrich people’s lives, giving them more time and personal freedom.

Regina Dugan

Hearing with the skin and sending messages with the mind because machines understand the body: For many people, this sounds like little more than science fiction. But for Regina Dugan, such challenges are the science fact of her daily research work.

An engineer with a doctorate, Regina Dugan was the fi rst woman to head up the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at the U.S. Pentagon, whose assignments included organizing the fi rst races for autonomous vehicles in the Nevada desert.

Yann LeCun

What if computers understood the world like people do, so they could complement us as partners by being able to predict things, asks Yann Lecun.

This vision has had a hold on Yann LeCun ever since he was a university student in Paris nearly 40 years ago. His passion: neural nets, or software that is capable of learning because its micro-lessons and experiences build upon one another until they form a big picture. The problem was that the phrase “artifi cial intelligence” itself had sparked too many false hopes for too long. LeCun’s fantastic networks were out on the fringe, dismissed by most experts as bizarre.

Sumang Liu

Simply say what you want in a normal conversational voice, and an invisible virtual assistant takes care of the rest—that’s how Sumang Liu envisions everyday life.

A native of China, this IT specialist is a classic example of the new generation of computer nerds who work in agile startups to develop rafts of practical little apps for consumers. Their aim at all times is to hide the vast complexity of machine learning behind the simplest possible user interface.


Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science and a key technology for such fields as piloted driving. By simulating the mechanisms behind intelligent human behavior, computer programs are capable of assuming tasks usually performed by people and continuing to develop independently.


AI is a game changer in the car. Assistance systems are getting more intelligent all the time—parking on their own, automatically keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, using learned movement patterns to suggest the best route—thus forming the foundation for the forward-looking technology of piloted driving.