Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Rapid Advance of Artificial Intelligence: is it the problem, or the solution?

In some ways, it's both:

Davos Highlights AI's Massive PR Problem
[...] Artificial Intelligence: The Evolution of Automation

Perhaps Henry Ford was able to build a market for the Model T by paying his assembly line workers a living wage, but it’s not clear if everyone buys into the same principle when it comes to the economic impact of automation today.

In fact, the problem may only be getting worse with the arrival of the next wave of innovation in automation: artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been playing a role in automation for years in the form of assembly line robotics, but innovation in the technology is now reaching an inflection point.

One of the concerns: AI will increasingly target white-collar jobs. “AI is going to focus now as much on white-collar as on blue-collar jobs,” explains John Drzik, President of global risk at insurer Marsh, in the ComputerWeekly article. “You are looking at machine learning algorithms being deployed in financial services, in healthcare and in other places. The machines are getting increasingly powerful.”

[...]

Given the sudden and rapid acceleration of innovation in AI, some Davos attendees even sounded alarmed. “The speed at which AI is improving is beyond even the most optimistic people,” according to Kai-fu Lee, a venture capitalist with Sinovation Partners, in the Financial Times article. “Pretty much anything that requires ten seconds of thinking or less can soon be done by AI or other algorithms.”

This kind of alarmist talk emphasizes AI’s greatest public relations hurdle: whether or not increasingly intelligent computers will cast off human control and turn evil, à la Skynet in the Terminator movies. Increasingly intelligent robots replacing humans is “a function of what the market demands,” explains Justine Cassell, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, in the Washington Post article. “If the market demands killer robots, there are going to be killer robots.”

Killer Robots? AI Needs Better PR

Aside from the occasional assembly line worker getting too close to the machinery, killer robots aren’t in the cards for AI in the near term. However, the economic impact that dramatically improved automation might bring is a very real concern, especially given populist pushback.

[...]

Wealth and income inequality remain global challenges to be sure, but the accelerating pace of technology innovation brings benefits to everyone. After all, even the poorest people on this planet can often afford a smartphone.

In fact, the ‘killer robots’ context for AI is missing the point, as technology advancement has proven to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem for the woes of globalization. Actually, the disruptions businesses face today are more about speed to market than automation per se.

It’s high time to change the PR surrounding AI from killer robots to digital transformation. “Companies must adapt their business models to driver new areas of revenue and growth,” explains Adam Elster, President of Global Field Operations at CA Technologies. “With digital transformation, the biggest factor is time: how fast can companies transform and bring new products to market.”

Where populism is a scarcity-driven movement – ‘there’s not enough to go around, so I need to make sure I have my share’ – technology innovation broadly and AI in particular are surplus-driven: ‘we all benefit from technology, so now we must ensure the benefits inure to everyone.’ [...]
Read the whole thing, for embedded links and more. This will be an ongoing debate for many years to come.
     

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Ubiquitous Alexa; is the Amazon AI assistant starting to be everywhere?

Kinda looks that way. The title of the article below refers to cars, but the article itself goes into much more. More about Alexa being incorporated into other appliances and, well, have a look:



Alexa will make your car smarter -- and vice versa
The integration into vehicles is yet another sign of how dependent we're becoming on AI.
[...] Within a span of just two years, Amazon's cloud-based voice service has spread far beyond the Echo speaker with which it first debuted. Alexa has gone from being an at-home helper to a personal assistant that can unlock your car, make a robot dance and even order groceries from your fridge.

At CES, both Ford and Volkswagen announced that their cars would integrate Alexa for weather updates, navigation and more. According to CJ Frost, principal architect solutions and automotive lead at Amazon, the car industry is moving into a mobility space. The idea isn't restricted to the ride anymore; it encompasses a journey that starts before you even get in the car. With the right skills built into the voice service, you can start a conversation with Alexa about the state of your car (is there enough fuel? is it locked? etc.) before you leave the house. It can also pull up your calendar, check traffic updates and confirm the meeting to make sure you're on track for the day.

Using a voice service in the car keeps your connection with the intelligent assistant intact. It's also a mode of communication that will be essential to autonomous cars of the near future. I caught up with Frost and John Scumniotales, general manager of Automotive Alexa service, at the Las Vegas convention center to trace the progression of the intelligent assistant from home speakers to cars on the road. [...]
The rest of the article is in an interview format, discussing where this is all going, and how and why, and what the future holds. Read the whole thing for embedded links, photos, video and more.

There have been lots of reviews on Youtube comparing Alexa with Google Home. People who use a lot of Google Services, claim the Google device is smarter and therefore better. But it's not that simple.

I have both devices. If you ask your question of Alexa in the format of: "Alexa, Wikipedia, [your question here]", the answer you get will often be as good or better than what Google can tell you. Alexa has been around longer, has wider integration, and more functions available. It can even add appointments to my Goggle Calendar, which Google Home says it cannot do yet!

Google Home does have some features it excels at, such as translating English words and phrases into foreign languages. If you own any Chromcast dongles, you can cast music and video to other devices, which is pretty cool. Presently it's biggest drawback is the lack of development of applications that work with it. However, it's POTENTIAL is very great, and a year or two from now we may see a great deal more functionality. It has the advantage of access to Google's considerable data base and resources. It could quickly catch up with Alexa, and perhaps surpass it. But that still remains to be seen.

It's not hard to make a video that makes one device look dumber than the other. But in truth the devices are very similar. Both can make mistakes, or fail at questions or functions. Sometimes one does better than the other. I actually like having both. It will be interesting to watch them both continue to evolve. To see if Google can close the gap created by Amazon's early head start. To see how the two products will differentiate themselves over time.

For the present, if you require a lot of integration with 3rd party apps and hardware, and if you are already using Amazon Prime and/or Amazon Music services, you might prefer Alexa. If you you are heavily into Google services, and/or Google Music or Youtube Red, you might prefer Google Home. Or if you are like me, an Amazon Prime/Music member and experimenting with Youtube Red and owner of chromcast devices, you may prefer both! Choice is good!
     

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Is the Star Trek Communication's Badge
Finally a Reality?

Yeah. Well, kinda, sorta, in a way... does Bluetooth count? You decide:


Published on Dec 15, 2016
To a Star Trek-obsessed kid growing up in the 90s, there was nothing cooler than the combadge, a communicator so small it fit into a Starfleet logo worn on the chest. I amassed quite a collection of combadge prop replicas over the years, but this isn’t just another hunk of chrome-plated potmetal: this is a communicator pin that actually works. (Well ... sometimes. And only with the help of your phone.) Join me for the MrMobile review of the Star Trek Bluetooth Combadge by Fametek!
An interesting first attempt, although apparently there is room for much needed improvements. Hopefully the manufacturers will learn from this, and the Next Generation of the device will do better.

Don't throw your smartphone away yet. ;-)

Source: Star Trek's Combadge Is Finally Real, But It's Got Some Bugs

     

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