Artificial intelligence is transforming our ability to process and understand data at scale in all sorts of ways, and one of its most interesting applications lies in a computer’s analysis of human speech and writing.

When humans communicate through language, a surprising amount of meaning is merely implied — or even hidden — by the actual words we use. To a computer attempting to understand and interact with humans, we must come across as a terribly vague and contradictory species, and rightly so. If we communicated with one another using the incomplete, nuance-free, keyword-heavy phrases we regularly punch into Google, for example, society would be the poorer for it.

So instead of asking us to dumb down our communication, tech companies are making computers smarter. These four Seattle companies are using a variety of business challenges and opportunities to push the limits of how much a computer can actually understand of our infamously vague methods of communication.

Founded: 2014

Funding: $3 million

Details: Vettd starts with the assumption that no leader of a large enterprise can possibly know and understand every one of their employees. The company produces specialized deep learning predictive models for talent evaluation and classification, helping HR teams leverage their company’s best people to solve business challenges — and do so at scale. Headquartered in Bellevue, the company says it has made advances in the extraction and capture of patterns in natural language, and claims to have sped up model training tenfold while retaining accuracy rates above 90 percent.

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