Skynet is coming, and it’s going to be incredibly popular.
It’s pretty remarkable how quickly new artificial intelligence technology has worked its way into our day-to-day lives already. Everyday products and services, like Siri, Google Now, Xbox Kinect, and Netflix all rely on the amazing recent advancements in machine learning. Already, these services are changing the world, and we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible.
This year’s CES has offered glimpses into a number of developing technologies. But for those following the event, they’ll have noticed a substantial number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices on display. These technologies haven’t crossed the threshold of revolutionary quite yet (cue drooling from Apple fans). However, with more and more organizations investing in these types of devices, it’s only a matter of time.
The critical thing to remember here is that the “Internet of Things”, like “Big Data” is actually code for “Artificial Intelligence.” Ultimately, nobody cares about building a smarter mouse trap or a networked blender. What they do care about is providing more data and more interfaces to the artificially intelligent agents that are slowly starting to take over our lives. As the algorithms that power those agents improve, new possibilities open up. Below, we’re going to run through some of the most interesting.
Microsoft has recently showcased autonomous robots that could be used to improve security. Called the K5, these machines stand 5 feet tall, weigh 300 pounds, and are equipped with HD cameras, sensors, alarms, artificial intelligence, and Wi-Fi. The K5 can read license plates and detect if something is out of place, like an injured person or an intruder. Its built in Wi-Fi also allows the K5 to communicate with security headquarters and relay information. As technology improves, and the software powering it becomes more sophisticated, the K5 will become more vigilant and capable of recognizing even smaller discrepancies than humans can.
Even more impressive may be Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS (now owned by Google,) an incredibly human-like robot that is capable of performing most tasks that a human can, including running over uneven terrain, and dexterously manipulating objects. It’s been built to aid in search and rescue and is incredibly robust in uncontrolled environments. Combined with a powerful artificial intelligence backend, ATLAS could have numerous applications, and radically change the way we think about humanoid robots — and human employment.
Wearable technology has been on the rise lately, primarily because of the growing popularity of fitness trackers and smart-watches. Again, these wearables are primarily useful, in the long run, as a source of data for your robot overlords, about your health, emotional status, activities, and well-being.
Atlas Wearables is a fitness band that integrates into a machine intelligence platform. Aside from the basic features of measuring heart rate and calories burned, Atlas is using machine learning to automatically classify a user’s workout routine and decipher their different exercises. However, exercise detection is just the beginning. Atlas is looking to understand how people walk, sit, or interact with each other, and provide insights into people’s moods, physical reactions and energy levels. This technology could lead to better diagnosis or treatment of disorders like bipolar disorder and major depression. It may turn out that a brief interview with a psychiatrist is no match for the patient analysis of intelligent software that is with you every second of every day.
The last year has been the warmest ever recorded, bringing record droughts and problems for farmlands and farmers across the country. Reductions in agricultural output and increases in prices hit us every time we visit the grocery store. So how can the Internet Of Things and artificial intelligence help?
There are a number of projects across the world (like Europe’s ENORASIS and the USA’s SCRI-MIND) looking to deploy sensor networks in agricultural fields to determine how much water crops need to grow and survive. These sensors can collect data on soil conditions, temperature changes, wind speeds, sunshine and rainfall to help provide a data-driven approach to agriculture. All of this information could increase crop yields and determine if extra irrigation would lead to profits or losses. Over time, researchers can begin to use this data to determine the best crops to plant for the next farming cycle.
While these new initiatives – and many others – offer the potential to drastically improve our lives, they also hold significant benefits for businesses. We live in an age of cloud computing and big data analytics. Merging machine learning with the Internet of Things will provide more detail and better information on consumers and the world around us. Businesses can use this rich data set to create more accurate models and provide better-targeted and more intelligent services.
Image Credits: Wearable Technology by Keoni Cabral via Flickr, Designing for the Internet of things. by Marcus Brown via Flickr, 140422-M-EV637-315 by Chuck Hagel via Flickr, Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch by K?rlis Dambr?ns via Flickr, Soil Pores in Healthy Soil by Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health Campaign via Flickr