We are becoming more accustomed to jaw-dropping video game technology, Amazon’s Alexa speakers, and nifty Android and iOS apps that seem to let us do just about anything.
While commercial technology continues to make leaps and bounds each year, what role does artificial intelligence play in all this, and how will AI and robots become part of our lives in the near future?
The following is an overview of several way that AI and robots are helping us through algorithms and physical functioning at work, in our homes, and in the way we move around.
We are on just the cusp of a lot of this technology, but companies are quickly making moves to feasibly commercialize these types of products for our use in the near future.
Welcome Dr. Robot
Artificial Intelligence may continue making its way into the doctor’s offices and hospitals of the world – and we aren’t just talking about the computer opponent on the chess program.
While items like performing surgery and interacting with a robot nurse might still seem like the stuff of science fiction, there are more realistic and immediate ways AI may start taking over some roles that were traditionally played by humans.
As reported by a Stanford University scientist specializing in AI, computers should be able to outperform doctors when diagnosing medical images.
Doctors don’t need to hang up their stethoscopes just yet, but in areas where artificial intelligence can access lots of data and compare it quickly – like in medical imaging – AI will be able to successfully aid physicians in their work and arrive at a lower chance of error.
Answering the Tough Questions
With the advent of internet search engines over the past 25 years – from Altavista and Ask Jeeves to Yahoo and Google – we have been accustomed to putting questions to the internet and quickly getting a list of websites to help us out.
Google has evolved to quickly spitting out answers to math problems and giving us directions, or even finishing our search expression of us as we type.
But what about more complex questions?
The AI program Watson competed successfully on Jeopardy a few years ago, often buzzing in almost instantaneously with the correct answers to difficult questions which previously only the human brain could decipher. But now its application is going beyond just competing on television.
In fact, a financial services advisor is offering IBM Watson’s services to help military members make the often difficult shift back to civilian life. The program is called IBM Watson’s Engagement Advisor, and by reading and analyzing over 3,000 documents related to military transitions, Watson is able to provide specific and clear answers to those U.S. military members who are utilizing the service.
This service is part of a pilot being only to veterans, but has practical implications and the opportunity to role out to other groups of individuals in the near future.
Can You Do This Research for Me?
In addition to Watson’s application for answering day-to-day questions, the program is also promising to help researchers and scientists keep up with the often overwhelming amount of content they need to read to continue with their work.
According to Forbes, the Baylor College of Medicine has been looking for new approaches to enhancing the research and decision making process. Baylor has created a cognitive computer system powered by Watson, called the Baylor Knowledge Integration Toolkit, which is able to read, synthesize, and draw patterns beyond far more than the 23 scientific papers the average research can read each month.
This is another example of where artificial intelligence is not aiming to replace or change the need for human scientists, but like with physicians, to allow them supercharge their decision makings and research all while making fewer mistakes.
But the reading abilities of artificial intelligence is not just for the hyper-scientific.
What About Summarize This Article?
A whole host of apps have been launched in the last two years which aim to summarize simple articles so you don’t have to read the whole thing – think www.smmry.com or the Summize app.
In a recent MIT Technology Review article, the the big steps in this technology are shown through work researchers from Saleforce.com have done. That is to say – non AI approaches have been able to successfully summarize in the past by drawing out main keywords and working with the first and last sentences of a piece.
But the Salesforce program uses an algorithm that has been proven to be far better than its predecessors in this area as measured by a software tool that measures these text summaries. Inputting an article of any length and it will instantly produce key bulleted points describing key aspects of the article.
Successful synthesis and summarizing of text requires actual intelligence, not just keyword identifying, and AI is making leaps in this arena.
Robot Helper in the Home
Whatever happened to the silly robot butler from the Rocky film series? Well, the stuff of 80s movies was also apparently the stuff of science fiction at the time. We weren’t anywhere close to households where robots could do anything for us, let alone serve us up food and drinks while we sat in front of the TV.
So how have things changed for robots in the home, and where are they going? Think about where we’ve come with cleaning devices.
The first iRobot Roomba originally launched 15 years ago, and was mostly just a circular vacuum that bumped around your house and sit a simple vacuum. It’s come a long way since then.
Roomba’s now are able to map floors and remember the layouts, use navigation abilities, avoid steps, change cleaning abilities on different types of floors, and even return to their charging stations.
But robot helping in the home in the near future won’t just stop at cleaning. While the possibilities are endless, think housesitting.
In a Guardian technology piece about in-home robots, they describe the Asus Zenbo, a $600 robot that can physically move around your home and perform simple tasks based on how you control with your smartphone or interact with it using its touchscreen or voice commands.
The Zenbo can move around the kitchen and help you find a recipe after a simple voice request. It can also tell stories to children – with visuals, changing voices, and movement. It can also function as a simple camera to take family photos, not to mention allow you to monitor your home via video when you are away. Houses may never truly be empty again.
Whether performing cleanup or daddy duty at story time, in-home robots are slowly making their ways into our households and an prices that reasonable – often less than the latest iPhone.
A Ride to Work or the Beach All While You Take a Nap
Do you think Uber, Lyft, and the ride-share economy have upended the transportation world in the past five years? That’s merely the stuff of streamlining the taxicab market with technology – what about cars that actually drive for us?
Major technology companies have been heavily investing in and testing fully automated vehicles. Google began their self-driving car project in 2009 and in 2016 this project became called Waymo. It has come a long way from in-lab testing.
In 2017, Google reported that Waymo introduced Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans that are self-driving. Google recently deployed 500 of these vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona with the intention of gathering data from driving in a safe and government approved area.
But now some of the self-driving vehicles are going beyond the data collection stage.
Waymo’s Early Rider program has also rolled out in Phoenix to a select group of individuals and families in order to provide feedback. This means actual families have begun using these self-driving vehicles – meaning they are being driving around by the car itself – while getting to school and work and the beach (well, I suppose not in Phoenix, but you get the idea).
With entry into the lives of real people in select U.S. locations, companies are making big strides in commercializing autonomous driving technology and on their way to further distribution in select locations.
You may find yourself driving – or rather, being drive in – a self-driving vehicle sooner than you think.
Are Robots and AI on the Cusp of Being the “Next Big Thing”
While we have been aware of AI and robots abilities from science fiction movies through early adaptations of simplistic devices over our lifetimes, day-to-day practical integration of this kind of science has largely been just out of reach of the average person, regardless of our income levels.
When taking a look at the breadth of technology options in this article, not to mention the realistic and economic outreach the companies behind them are making, it’s no longer a stretch to think that robots may be playing a much bigger role – and far less of the “science fiction” type – in our lives in the near future.