Did you ever watch the 2015 movie Chappie? Set in the 22nd Century in South Africa, it’s about a robotic police force fighting crime, the development of an artificial intelligence chip, and a robot named Chappie who begins to think like a human. Even since 2001 when Steven Spielberg’s science fiction drama AI hit theaters, humanoid robots and artificial intelligence have been considered synonymous. In reality, though, the artificial intelligence industry is much broader. This essential part of the technology sector aims to create intelligent machines of all kinds that work and react like humans.
Artificial Intelligence is one of the hottest industries for start-up companies and investors alike. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Co., which analyzes industries, the entrepreneurial activity unleashed by new artificial intelligence developments attracted three times as much investment in 2016—between $26 billion and $39 billion—as it did three years earlier. Investors see AI as a great place to put their money, especially in the U.S. and China.
If it all sounds so other-worldly, it’s not. AI is much more of a computer science reality than fiction these days, and it’s likely to be a big part of your future. Here are five fast facts to help you start wrapping your brain around the promise of artificial intelligence.
- What is AI? KWHS called on high school student Homer Wang, a senior at St. Michael’s University School in Victoria, Canada, to help us better understand AI. Wang is interested in technology and has done a lot of research on how AI impacts the 21st century global business economy. In a paper he wrote, Wang describes AI as “manmade minds,” adding that “the primary goal of AI is to make machines smarter.” Put another way, artificial intelligence is human intelligence exhibited by machines. Often mentioned along with AI is the field of machine learning, which refers to the design and development of algorithms and techniques that allow computers to learn. It is an approach to achieve artificial intelligence. You will also hear the term deep learning partnered with AI, which is a technique for implementing machine learning. According to techies, deep learning uses “many-layered Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) to learn levels of representation and abstraction that make sense of data such as images, sound, and text.” All of these together are contributing to the explosive growth of the artificial intelligence industry.
- AI is all around you. You don’t need to head to the robotics lab to find innovative applications of artificial intelligence. Digital speakers like the Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google Home and the soon-to-be-released Apple HomePod all use AI systems to listen for commands and respond. According to an article in The Motley Fool (see related links), “A number of recent advances in AI have already made their way into our daily lives.” Other examples include a set of AI algorithms for image and facial recognition that tag photos on Facebook, and let’s not forget Siri, Cortana and other friendly digital assistants on our smartphones who help us using AI technologies like speech recognition and natural language processing.
- AI is on fire. The buzz around AI technology right now could drown out even the loudest RoboBee (which, by the way, is a new AI-activated hybrid robot that can fly, dive into the water, swim and propel itself back out). Engineers and computer scientists from around the world are researching and developing AI technologies with lightning speed. In fact, a group of them who have been hard at work in OpenAI, an artificial intelligence lab in San Francisco, Calif., founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, just left to start their own company called Embodied Intelligence, which specializes in complex algorithms that allow machines to learn tasks on their own. This is one of many new companies working to advance AI technology.
- AI is changing the world. During the AI Frontiers conference that was held this month in Silicon Valley, keynote speaker Andrew Ng said, “AI is the new electricity.” Just as electricity transformed the way industries functioned in the past century, artificial intelligence has the power to substantially change society in the next 100 years. We have home assistants. Next up? Home robots. Many companies are working hard to develop human-level intelligence in robots. During AI Frontiers, Mayfield Robotics introduced Kuri, a robot companion and videographer meant for the home. Kuri has depth sensors to map the home and uses images to improve navigation. She also has pet and person detection features so she can smile or react when they are around. Kuri has place recognition as well, so she will remember she has been to a place before even if the lighting has changed. “Her job is to bring a spot of life to your home. She provides entertainment — she can play music, podcasts, audiobooks. You can check your home from anywhere,” noted Mayfield’s chief technology officer Kaijen Hsiao. Kuri will hit the market at $799 in December.
- Getting a Job in AI. Computer scientists tell us that the AI field requires strong foundations in math, technology, logic and engineering. Careers in AI use automation, robotics and sophisticated computer software and programs. Specific skills that will serve budding AI workers well include probability, statistics, algebra, calculus, logic, algorithms, physics, engineering, computer science, programming languages and coding. Since many technologists are taking their AI knowledge to the start-up community, entrepreneurship skills are also helpful. Specific jobs held by AI professionals include surgical technicians working with robotics, manufacturing and electrical engineers, software analysts and developers, mechanical engineers and algorithm specialists. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers says, “Just about every industry needs employees with AI skills, including health care and agriculture.” In addition to education, landing a job in AI means following industry news closely to stay up on the latest developments in a really fast-moving field.
What are three things you learned about AI from this article? Were you familiar with the field? How did this story help you understand it better? What is your favorite movie, book, video or other work that depicts artificial intelligence in some form?
This article mentions the example of Embodied Intelligence as a new start-up business in the AI industry. Using the article as well as the Related Links tab in the side toolbar, find other examples of AI startups and how they are advancing the technology. Share what you learned with a group.
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