This year has been truly remarkable in terms of technological development and as the sun sets on 2016 I believe we’re heading towards a new and exciting era of computing. An era that will see a broad range of industries taking advantage of intelligent machines powered by artificial intelligence (AI) thanks to computers built with the processing power to learn and interact with people. We’re already starting to see this technology come to life - driverless cars can now meander through country roads at night and AI powered robots are able to learn motor skills through trial and error. But how have we reached this point and what new developments are already on the horizon?
What’s led to the AI computing era?
Throughout the history of computing there have been a number of key moments that have defined each era. Cast your mind back to 1995 when the PC-Internet era was born thanks to the convergence of low-cost microprocessors, Windows 95 and Yahoo!, which provided a window into the world. This monumental development helped create Microsoft’s vision of putting a computer into every home so that everyone had the opportunity to use the technology. Then, just a decade later, Apple’s iPhone revolutionised the way we live, work and play further by putting an Internet-enabled device into our pockets. Next, we entered the Mobile-Cloud era and a world of apps has helped us to stay even more connected on the move.
Now we’re on the cusp of the AI computing era. An era that’s only been made possible thanks to the development of a new computing model known as GPU deep learning – a model that initially began as a way to create and develop visually powerful video games! But now, thanks to intense research and development, it’s been proven to be highly effective at providing a foundation for machines to learn, perceive and solve problems.
Together with our partners and customers we’re now focused on innovation at the intersection of visual processing, AI and high performance computing. This unique combination is what’s giving way to intelligent and autonomous machines and for the first time is creating AI algorithms that make self-driving cars and autonomous robots a reality.
AI in every industry
What makes me really excited about AI is how it will go on to transform so many industries – medical perhaps being one sector where the technology is able to change people’s lives in a really powerful and emotive way. For example, we’ve recently teamed up with National Cancer Institute to accelerate cancer research. Known as the Cancer Moonshot, the initiative aims to deliver a decade of advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment in just five years. The research efforts include a focus on building an AI framework called CANDLE (Cancer Distributed Learning Environment), which will provide a common discovery platform that brings the power of AI to the fight against cancer.
Similarly, an Italian startup known as Eyra, has created a wearable device which uses computer vision and machine learning to bring more independence to the lives of visually impaired people. Worn like a headset it uses GPU-accelerated computer vision, deep learning and sensors that process, analyse and describe images from two cameras. The headset uses bone conduction instead of going through the ear canal, so users can hear the verbal descriptions even in noisy environments. Both Eyra and Cancer Moonshot show how powerful AI can be in its ability to transform people’s lives and make a real difference.
With the AI market expected to be worth $16.06 billion by 20221 the technology is set to solve a variety of other problems that just a few years back seemed out of reach. AI is set to drive the fourth industrial revolution where intelligent robots will drive a new wave of productivity improvements. For example, Birds.ai is a company that uses computer vision software for precision agriculture and inspection, enabling drones to count cattle, crops and more. Farmers can quickly and easily get a bird’s eye view of all their assets through aerial imagery – helping them to keep track of their stock and identify any issues in real time. In the near future, such innovations might lead to better use of agrochemical products, water resources and therefore better protection for the environment.
AI’s impact on the human workforce
Based on the above you may think AI leaves little room for human input. There have been conflicting views on whether the AI revolution is positive for the human workforce, with many citing that robots will steal our jobs. I believe that AI won’t replace humans, but rather augment and enhance our capabilities. In my opinion, the technology has the power to help free up our time so that we’re able to focus on high-value-adding tasks. Whether that’s taking on the more mundane tasks or simply crunching data at a much faster rate to give us the insights we need to perform our jobs more effectively.
With AI the possibilities are endless – it’s set to touch every person and every machine – and we can expect to see even bigger and better uses of the technology in the coming months and years.
Image Credit: John Williams RUS / Shutterstock