Artificial Intelligence (better known now as AI) and machine learning are trendy terms these days – but few people agree on what the terms really mean. AI is tossed about by Elon Musk, mentioned in the movies, and is attached to a growing number of personal, business, and government products.
What is Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is when a computer uses advanced algorithms to mimic traditional human abilities such as problem-solving and learning from its experiences. Machine learning – a significant element in AI – is when computers take a lot of data, learn from it, and make decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so.
AI already enables personal assistants such as Alexa and Cortana, to listen for your requests and, based on your preferences and those with similar tastes, pick out a playlist of your favorite songs. These personal assistants can even plan your next vacation, order the tickets, and do this within your budget constraints. On the negative side, some experts fear that AI could be used to enable autonomous military weapons, ready to fire without a human hand directly touching the trigger. But between the mundane and the threat, there are many ways developers are using AI to help people and here are a few of them:
Helping you better manage your life
Life comes with many choices – schedules, people, and money. A growing number of apps say they use AI to help you make the best choices in these areas. In a nutshell, these apps take our static To Do lists and wishes, look at our actual decisions/actions, then use AI to help us better plan for upcoming events. These apps can manage your personal expenditures with MyKAI, oversee daily activities with Lifetracker, and appointments with Trevor AI. This list doesn’t include any options that Facebook or Google might be preparing.
Become friends with a robot
Sophia, the latest robot from Hanson Robotics, has gotten lots of attention recently. Her appearance is striking – an Audrey Hepburn-style face that moves as it shows a range of emotions. Apart from the exposed top of her cranium – stuffed with electronics – she is visually human in her look and basic expressions. This almost humanity is part of Hanson Robotic’s belief that a robot that looks and acts like a human is easier for people to trust. And as Sophia herself said at a conference: “If you will be nice to me, I will be nice to you.” Yes, Sophia wants to be your friend.
Guarding beaches with AI
An AI-powered drone doing beach patrol duty was one of the most interesting examples cited by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at the recent WEB Summit. In Australia, the country’s lifeguards have a big geographic challenge — they’ve got a lot of beaches to patrol. Currently, they use drones to look out for incidents and to quickly drop a self-inflating rescue device to people at risk. By adding onboard AI computing capability, the plan is for these drones to autonomously ID and react to ongoing situations – differentiating between drowning individuals and marauding sharks – and respond quickly. The response could be a dose of shark repellent or an inflated device.
Looking out for the vision impaired
Seeing AI, a new app from Microsoft has been described as a “smartphone-based narrator that can be used anywhere.” The app combines the smartphone, its camera, speaker, together with advanced Artificial intelligence to open up the world. Users can pick a channel such as Face or Scene to “see” the world. Face, as one example, describes a person’s physical characteristics and says whether they appear happy or sad. Seeing AI goes a big step – in capability and mobility – beyond the traditional screen reader program on a desktop computer.
Keeping the bad guys from infiltrating your home
Over the years, the volume of malware – and data about it – has skyrocketed beyond the ability of analysts to manually uncover threats. Avira has over ten years of experience in pioneering and applying Artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques to malware detection. This analysis is done in the cloud, allowing Avira to sift through a vast array of threats away from the prying eyes of cybercriminals – all without slowing down users’ devices.
With the Internet of Things and the growth of always-connected devices, Avira has expanded its use of AI and machine learning into securing the smart home. SafeThings, the newest Avira security product, uses AI to determine the normal behavior and data usage patterns for each smart device in the home. This helps Avira to uncover anomalies signaling that the device is at risk of being hacked or being enslaved into a botnet gang. For the end user, SafeThings’s AI goes to work automatically, providing hands’ free security.
The helping side of AI
AI and machine learning are complex, fast-evolving technologies. Their use varies immensely by company and function. Intel’s beach patroller calls for the AI to be fully incorporated into the device. Some companies have AI powering chatbots and activity analysis within an app. Others, such as Microsoft’s Seeing AI or the Avira SafeThings, have their AI components remotely locked away in the cloud. The debate over the use and misuse of AI is also not going to go away. But while weaponized AI is a future threat, the everyday helpful application of AI is already here. And more is on the way. Stay tuned for more details.