Scientists See Startling Gains in Artificial Intelligence technology, called deep learning, has already been put to use in services like Apple's Siri virtual personal assistant, which is based on Nuance Communications' speech recognition service, and in Google's Street View, which uses machine vision to identify specific addresses.

But what is new in recent months is the growing speed and accuracy of deep-learning programs, often called artificial neural networks or just "neural nets" for their resemblance to the neural connections in the brain.

"There has been a number of stunning new results with deep-learning methods," said Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University who did pioneering research in handwriting recognition at Bell Laboratories. "The kind of jump we are seeing in the accuracy of these systems is very rare indeed."

Artificial intelligence researchers are acutely aware of the dangers of being overly optimistic. Their field has long been plagued by outbursts of misplaced enthusiasm followed by equally striking declines.

In the 1960s, some computer scientists believed that a workable artificial intelligence system was just 10 years away. In the 1980s, a wave of commercial start-ups collapsed, leading to what some people called the "A.I. winter."

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