Companies that focus on quantum mechanics are earning the majority of their revenue from consulting on upcoming projects rather than from sales of practical applications,There was the AI winter but now we have gradient again!Yes! Good old Fosbury had to show them how to flop. But the flop could also be a local minimum.
I'd also say the human brain's current understanding of NN is beset by local minima, no?
I bet the arrival of quantum computers will help the high dimensional research a lot and keep the momentum going. Another factor is that we still have a lot to learn about possible ways we can use it. You can change your look on things and suddenly see new application domains. A lot of inspiration from that comes from biology. Things like "attention" have their NN couterpart.
Besides the research we are now also seeing lots of useful application, anyone can make disruptive tools now. A couple of days ago a friend who works at a space agency came over for dinner. They have these hackathons where employees get to do fun projects and his roommate did a cool ml project.
One of the things they do is make custom solar cells depending on the mission. Part of that is to inspect the produced solar cells for cracks before they send them up to space. They take high resolution images with a robot and then a human goes and stares at them for weeks. However that is now done by ML with a much better detection rate. They guy demoed it in a single day and now they are taking it to production. Faster inspection, higher quality of inspection, lower cost, shorter deadlines.