TeraRecon buys McCoy to create 'Amazon for AI'

2016 08 17 17 05 06 731 Computer Brain 400

With the goal of creating a sort of Amazon.com for artificial intelligence (AI), advanced visualization software developer TeraRecon has acquired machine-learning company McCoy Medical Technologies and formed a new firm, called WIA, that aims to be a single location for users to find AI algorithms.

WIA will provide AI algorithms to individual users, machine-learning researchers, open-source organizations, and diagnostic imaging companies, TeraRecon said. The firm's goal is to be an independent platform that will make it easier for users to find AI algorithms, but also easier for AI developers to develop and host their software.

The company launched the new venture at this week's Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) meeting in Pittsburgh.

TeraRecon's move is designed to address a shortcoming that's hampered the commercial progress of AI and machine learning for the past 25 years, according to Jeffrey Sorenson, president and CEO of TeraRecon. Namely, the commercial requirements behind running an AI business exceed the market potential of individual AI algorithms.

"The algorithms work, but the business model of a single algorithm doesn't work," Sorenson said. "The overhead to commercialize a single algorithm exceeds the value of a single algorithm."

WIA hopes to change all this by giving developers a cloud-based platform for developing, hosting, and distributing their algorithms, so each developer won't have to reinvent the wheel to commercialize a product. At the same time, users will have a single location for multiple AI tools, rather than having to contact multiple developers individually -- much as Amazon.com serves as a distribution mechanism for multiple products and vendors.

WIA has been set up as a separate company from TeraRecon, with its own investment and executive leadership. It retains McCoy Medical's advisory board, which includes Dr. Eliot Siegel from the University of Maryland, Dr. Paul Chang from the University of Chicago, and Dr. Khan Siddiqui of the American College of Radiology's IT and Informatics Committee.

WIA is in discussions with multiple algorithm developers participating in the project, and the company expects to make multiple announcements in the coming months about new partnerships. TeraRecon also plans to host its own algorithms on the WIA platform.

Sorenson believes WIA will be particularly attractive to universities that have developed AI tools but have neither the skillset nor the inclination to commercialize a product. They will be able to choose whether to make their software public or keep it private for internal use, he said.

The McCoy offerings include a developer platform and a vendor-neutral application program interface (API) that allow the use of cloud-based algorithms without requiring access to the algorithm code or training data, according to the firm. The platform will be totally open, so any developer can access it, Sorenson said.

"Artificial intelligence still needs a distribution mechanism, and this will be much more efficient for everyone to find many algorithms in one place, rather than many places for one algorithm," Sorenson said.

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