Artificial intelligence can help rescue reality
The past few decades have seen a plethora of films warning us of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence, or “AI”. From “The Matrix”, where humans become the fuel of a machine-driven world, to the terrifying malfunctioning androids of “Westworld”, these films expose our increasing disconnectedness from the natural world and warn how humanity could be enslaved or subsumed by technology. Recent reality, however, has seen this scenario turned on its head. As a deadly threat from the natural world, coronavirus, threatens us, data scientists are using AI, data analytics and robotics to stay one step ahead.
These powerful tools have emerged as a major boon in detecting, responding and combating pandemic outbreaks. In December 2019, it was an AI-powered platform that detected the early warning signs of an unknown type of pneumonia spreading in China. As the outbreak became a global pandemic, AI tools and technologies became critical in helping governments and healthcare organisations manage every stage of the crisis.
From assisting in slowing the virus spread through surveillance and contact tracing, monitoring of symptoms, automating hospital operations and managing complex supply chains for the vaccine, AI has been deployed to help tackle many of the unique challenges presented by Covid-19. In Tullamore Hospital in Ireland, for example, robots were used to disinfect patient rooms using ultraviolet light. Measures such as these help limit physician exposure to contaminated surfaces and ease strains caused by staff shortages.
And while AI technologies increase efficiencies and minimise risks in clinical practice, unlike in films they will never replace nurses, doctors and other caregivers, but rather complement and enhance human capabilities and make diagnosing and treating health issues more efficient and accurate. That’s a transformative shift, not only because it offers medical professionals better understanding of the intricacies of Covid-19 and insight into patients’ well-being, but also because the more these technologies are used, the more innovation they unlock.
The ability for AI to learn from data and deliver faster, more accurate results on a very large scale has a huge potential to relieve some of the pressure on over-stretched healthcare systems and help medical professionals and research institutions to step up their efforts to fight Covid-19, as well as improve the quality of life for both patients and staff. We can already see many examples of AI assistance being used in hospitals and care home environments through systems that detect clues of serious illness or potential accidents, alert caregivers to make timely, life-saving interventions, and help hospitals manage patient volumes.
It is not just in the medical field where the benefits of AI are becoming more and more apparent.
Slowly and steadily, AI technology is infiltrating almost every aspect of our lives. Certainly, this raises real concerns in regard to privacy, and the effect on our mental wellbeing, and not all of us are completely comfortable with even seemingly benign elements of AI. The way Facebook recognises the faces of our friends to tag them in photos, Netflix suggests what you should watch next, Siri sets clocks and timers, and Apple uses your face ID as a form of authentication may seem innocently helpful to some, but intrusive and even disturbing to others.
And yet, undeniably, AI is capable of making our lives easier in a myriad of ways, and even of tackling one of the world’s greatest challenges: the growing demand for food caused by the continuous increase of the global population. While previous agricultural revolutions relied on carbon-driven machinery and poisonous chemicals to increase yield at the cost of the planet, now AI-controlled vertical farms are revolutionising food production by reducing land use and all the associated negative environmental impacts.
With innovations such as this, with AI increasingly used to solve society’s most pressing challenges such as food stability, chronic diseases, and climate change, perhaps future films will show robots in a more positive light. Certainly, they will never be human, but their effect need not be inhumane, and used wisely they can help save us from the worst of what we inflict on ourselves.
Consumer tech trends
Innovations in technology have always moved fast, but the pandemic took this speed to a level never seen before, many of which are aimed at the consumer. Here are three trends for the coming year that caught our attention, as they look set to make their mark well beyond the months ahead.
Now you see me
Some manufacturers are keen for us to spend the money we’ve saved by not going to the cinema, theatre or concerts but on home entertainment systems that look like they’re plucked straight out of a sci-fi film. Is your home too small for an extra large TV screen? Not to worry. Thanks to LG’s invention of the 55-inch “invisible” OLED TV, this new technology means that your window or sliding door could become your TV. Alternatively, you could invest in TCL’s wearable display headset: it uses two 1080p OLED displays that make you feel you’re watching on a much larger screen. This device will arrive this year, so we still don’t know if the money you might have saved will be enough!
Don’t wrap it, I’ll wear it
When people could no longer go to the gym due to the pandemic, companies like Peloton (most renowned for their indoor exercise bike) redefined home exercise with their immersive experience that includes smart workout devices, remote competitions, leaderboards and wearable technology, or “wearables”. According to a report from Gartner, a leading technology research company, consumer spending on wearables will double this year. Cue Apple, who will debut their first augmented reality headset in 2022. Their goal? To replace the smartphone with a pair of glasses. Tech geeks rejoice!
Painting is perhaps not the first thing you might associate with artificial intelligence, so you might be surprised to learn that the first AI-generated painting sold at Christie’s for $432,500 back in 2018. The work was created by a trio of French students using an algorithm trained on a dataset of historical portraits. For the average consumer, this form of AI could present exciting tools not only for art, but also for other artistic industries such as film, music, photography, graphic design, marketing, branding and more.
Vasso Georgiou is Marketing Director at digital media agency Marketing Town