If machine-learning robots sound like something from the Jetson's, think again. We're closer than ever to creating some of the most innovative and smart AI technologies the world has ever seen, but how could that change our daily life? Let's explore.
If it sounds like something out of science fiction, that’s because, for years, it was simply a blip on our radar, something that we thought might one day be possible but would require decades of innovation to make a reality. Yet, with the rapidity that modern technology is proliferating, it’s no surprise that forward-thinking innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) are quickly becoming household terms. Yet, the robotic image that immediately comes to mind when one thinks of AI is not necessarily its present-day iteration. Today’s AI technology is sleek, robust and able to be seamlessly integrated into even the most unexpected touchpoints like laundry and home security.
At its crux, AI is centered on machine learning, or the replication of human function and reasoning into an inanimate hardware or software system. Thanks to recent developments, though, AI has been a conversation starter for decades, capabilities we once thought out of reach are now possible, from facial recognition to self-folding laundry systems and myriad applications in between. The breakneck pace is attributed primarily to the massive accumulation of Big Data that’s disrupting industries around the world. While much of the technology is still in its basic, infancy form, there is a promise on the horizon of even more advanced and impressive applications in the near future. Here are five ways we might be seeing AI and its peer technologies soon.
1. Automatic transportation. While self-driving cars are already breaking through in the marketplace, safety configurations and details are still being considered and drivers are required to be behind the wheel. Still, it stands to reason that it won’t be too long until the vision of a highway full of automated vehicles is a reality and not something out of a science fiction movie.
Google was one of the first major players on this scene, introducing a self-driving car back in 2012. In the time since, the U.S. Department of Transportation has released several definitions of automated transportation, putting the Google model at one level below full automation. Other manufacturers have since experimented with the technology and other transportation types, such as buses, are getting closer to the definition of full automation. Moving forward, we can expect to see all types of recreational and professional endeavors drastically changed as a direct result of this innovation. From automated food delivery services to hands-free taxis and more, there’s virtually no cap to how transformative this technology could get.
2. Cyborg capabilities. If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and wished you could change something about your appearance, or dreamed of adjusting anything about your natural abilities, you may soon be able to, thanks to AI technology. Of course, the first implementations of these cyborg applications would be less about cosmetic convenience and more about facilitating health and healing. For instance, the technology is there to allow persons with artificial limbs greater mobility in their prosthesis as their brains are better able to communicate with it. We’ve already seen how AI can improve and simplify the image editing process by boosting Photoshop capabilities and more. The notion that real-life augmentation could be around the corner isn’t far-fetched.
3. Automating dangerous careers. From loggers to highway workers, there are a host of career paths that are inherently dangerous and carry with them a significant amount of risk. Currently, robotics are being deployed in many of these fields to reduce the amount of manpower required to carry out the tasks. One such area in which AI technology is already being deployed is in bomb defusing.
While the robots performing this task are technically drones that still require a level of human control, experts believe we’re inching closer to eliminating the need for human involvement. Another industry that stands to benefit from this movement includes welding (known for its high noises, intense heat and toxicity).
4. Regulating climate change. It’s been a conversation around the dinner table for years, but so far, no technology has come closer to solving the issue of climate change than AI has. The reason is that AI machines can accumulate and store more data than a human could even think possible. Leveraging these Big Data connections, machines could one day be able to discern the trends and patterns in our weather system and use those insights to power real change.
5. Facilitating companionship. Perhaps we can blame Star Wars for this one, but the idea of having a robot for a friend is an endearing one, even if it is a few years away from becoming reality. Yet, one company in Japan created just that -- a companionship robot designed to comprehend and replicate emotions. Named 'Pepper,' the robot went on the market in 2015 and all of its 1,000 units were sold out in only one minute. Pepper entered the U.S. market in 2016 and is known as the first humanoid robot designed to adapt its behavior in accordance with how the person in its company is acting. His latest gig? He’s now working at the Smithsonian, where he helps visitors navigate the museum and its offerings.
For now, many of these innovations will require more time, research, and practical application before they can fully integrate into our daily lives. Yet, with so much time, effort and resources being invested in developing AI technology, it’s wise to keep our eyes and ears open to the latest developments, as they could quickly change our concept of normal and introduce a host of new capabilities we only once dreamed possible.