Scale AI Inc, a company run by 22-year-old Alexandr Wang, has provided an insight into the world of artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence is responsible for every self-driving car or cashier-less Amazon Go convenience store. Behind all these are thousands of humans, whose job it is to train computers to see. They look at pictures and identify what’s in the footage. Their observations are fed back into artificial intelligence software that then learns how to do the same thing over time.
Scale has built software that looks over the images first. In many cases, it’s able to label most of the objects automatically. Workers are then asked to review the images. If they need to intervene, the system lets them click once somewhere, say, in the middle of a car, and it traces the object for them. “Tasks that used to take hours end up taking just a couple of minutes,” says Wang.
Buildings, parking spaces, pedestrians, traffic lights, and so on are among items to be identified. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours for a person to go point by point over every object in a single photo, and there are millions of images to scour. That data is then fed back into an AI system, so the cars can learn what things are in the world around them.
Scale, which is three years old in the business, has built a set of software tools that take a first pass at marking up pictures before handing them off to a network of some 30,000 contract workers, who then perform the finishing touches.
On Monday, Scale revealed an investment that values the business at more than $1 billion.
Wang grew up in New Mexico, the son of two physicists. During his teenage years, he excelled at coding competitions and got job offers from tech companies as a high school student. This put him on a path to graduate early, work in Silicon Valley, and then start Scale by the time he was 19.
Now, at 22, Wang has a fresh $100 million from investors, including Mike Volpi, a general partner at Index Ventures.
Scale has about 100 employees working at its San Francisco headquarters, in addition to an army of contractors scattered all over the world handling the image labeling work. The contractors receive detailed instructions from Scale on what they’re meant to look for. The company is also developing software to identify the best labelers.