Thursday, January 26, 2017

AI In The Making

Circuit Board Robot

"...the street finds its own uses for things"  and soon it will be able to find its own use for artificial intelligence.

Dreams and nightmares about intelligent machines have been with us since we invented machines but our imagination was always ahead of reality. Significant progress was made with artificial intelligence during the 1960s and 1970s but the possibilities were impossibilities with the technology at the time and the field of AI sunk into a trough of disillusionment and a long AI Winter followed.

Decades of exponential development have given us the technology to thaw the AI Winter and make the potential of AI possible. If the information revolution is anything like the industrial revolution then what we have seen so far has been like the application of the steam engine ... AI is like the application electricity in the industrial revolution. The information age is yet to really begin but due to the speed of change these days the revolution will be an order of magnitude faster and sharper than the industrial revolution.

AI looks like the trigger of a new era of technology and every major tech company is in the race for AI and tech's future. But these systems are complex, big and expensive - table stakes are prohibitive and just getting on the starting grid is exclusive.

Today people can pocket more computer capability than the room sized computers used to help us get to the moon in 1969. Exponential developments are bound to lower the cost of entry to AI and open opportunity for anyone who wants to find their own use for it - potentially creating a "cambrian explosion" of new applications ... just like the application of electricity in the industrial revolution.

Already there are some very interesting and even useful entry level tools that people can use to dabble with AI using simple chatbots. "There's a bot for that" ... major tech companies are increasingly making simple bot development available on their platforms - Telegram was early into offering bot development on its platform and has its botfather. Facebook has made a big investment in AI - you can use Facebook's own messenger bot tools or third party apps like Chatfuel, Botsify, API,ai. There are more generic cross platform business type tools like, simple fun type systems like A.L.I.C.E and Personalityforge and for the more techy there is the open source Botkit available on Github and Google's Tensorflow which is also available on Github.

This is the most exciting time I can remember in tech - decades of exponential development have brought us to this point at the beginning of 2017 where we have so many technologies ready to burst forth into mainstream application - AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, IoT, robotics, 3D printing and wearable tech to name just a few. Any of these alone can create quite an impact but in combination can be revolutionary and be part of the trigger to a new era of technology and the information revolution proper.

It is into this "cambrian explosion" of new tech and AI that Google has announced its interest to get involved with the maker community to develop smart tools for Makers and users of nano board computers and launched a survey of the Maker community saying:

"We at Google are interested in creating smart tools for makers, and want to hear from you about what would be most helpful."

Tech areas that can be selected in the survey include home automation, drones, IoT, robotics, 3D printing, wearables and machine learning. The survey also mentions face-recognition, emotion-recognition, speech-to-text translation, natural language processing and sentiment analysis.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is encouraging its community to help google develop tools for raspberry pi. Pi co-founder Eben Upton tells TechCrunchFor me, the big opportunities are around deep learning and AI. Google are very strong in this area, particularly after the DeepMind acquisition, and there are obvious benefits to being able to connect their services to the real world using Raspberry Pi".

Could Google Maker Tools do for AI what Cardboard did for Virtual Reality? 

Google's approach to the Maker community can be mutually beneficial. Obviously Google wants to build its platform and its influence with these "technologies of the future" but people and the Maker community can also benefit from accessible Maker tools. This reminds me of Google Cardboard and how this "Citizen Tech" helped access to what had been had been the complicated, expensive and exclusive technology of virtual reality.

Will Maker access help AI get over the peak of inflated expectations and get it out of trough of disillusionment onto the slope of enlightenment at the start of the information revolution proper?

Will maker access help the street find its own uses for things like AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, IoT, robotics, 3D printing and wearable tech and help balance corporate and state tech with Citizen Tech as we head into a new era and the information revolution proper?

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