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Artificial intelligence – is it within reach? 1

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Peter Thompson

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a topic that has been researched by computer scientists for the last twenty years or so. It has also been depicted in many movies. However, AI has always seemed elusive as a tangible notion.

The evolution of artificial intelligence is progressing quickly. Search engines, software applications and databases are delivering information to us as we request it. Applications prompt and remind us of tasks we need to do or appointments we need to keep. But most of this information is provided by user request.

On a recent trip to the Netherlands, I visited some of my Nyenrodian university colleagues with whom I studied an MBA in 2007/2008.  I asked one of them if they had many photos from our time together. He said no, not so many as it required a digital camera. We then discussed how people use mobile phones for most photos today.  Handheld computers such as the iPhone were only released in 2007. Phones with cameras and applications weren’t really mainstream until 2009/2010. That gives you some idea of how fast the technology is moving. Do you remember that company Nokia? They are a dinosaur now.

In my opinion, the new age of artificial intelligence is almost within reach.

One can almost imagine the death of the mobile phone too.  It’s annoying – you have to carry it, type on it, hold on to it. It’s not discreet even though they managed to make it look like some sort of fashion accessory. We have become very attached to the mobile phone.

There are so many databases openly accessible about us today. Whether it’s Google+, Facebook or LinkedIn, there is sufficient information publicly available that in most cases it’s possible to draw conclusions about people. As a user of these applications it’s possible to set your preferences to what you want others to see. It actually transfers to what queries you allow people to see on your profile. Where you work, your marital status, friends, languages, employment history, gender, age, body type and your face are all information relatively easily shared and accessible by third parties.

So how is artificial intelligence connected to this?

Perhaps the missing pieces are almost within grasp. One is the introduction of a permanent camera worn as eyeglasses connected to middleware software application that can return meaningful information to the wearer. With a microphone and a connected ear piece, it will be possible to do away the phone. Yay, no more typing, no more carrying it in your pocket and searching through contacts.

There are several companies developing hardware that comes as glasses worn on the head. Some have a wireless or GPS connector. Some have information display screens and some have cameras. Some have microphones. Some are permanently connected to the Internet.

One of the key aspects will be the ability to define your preferences and allowing your application to work for you. I’m open to meeting people of ‘x’. Match my open profile to equivalent people or those who have their profiles configured to accept equivalent matches.

Real world applications have some pretty cool potential. Imagine being in a foreign country not knowing the language and being simply able to listen to someone and have the phonetic translation appear right in front of your eyes or having their glasses translate what you want to say to someone (if they are wearing a pair too).

Firstly, it will be important to establish your profile search. Maybe it will be configured to voice, video or some combination of both. Video and voice will be matched to databases which means that as the camera or microphone take in data, it can be compared to a variety of external databases to deliver the information or people you are looking for. Imagine introductions being made instantly. Your profile requests might include meeting your perfect match, single people between the age ‘x’ and ‘y’, people looking to buy certain products or HR people seeking to recruit people who meet your education and experience. All you would need to do is walk the streets and let the opportunities come your way.

If you hadn’t quite thought about how big this next iteration of software, Internet or artificial intelligence might become, then imagine some of the applications. Consider the police. They may no longer need to walk around looking for someone when the vast amount of cameras being worn with a streaming connection to face recognition software databases would be performing background screening, storage and checking. The entire concepts of briefs, images and discussions would be centralised with intelligence and actions made as required.

For application developers, its a pretty exciting time to be thinking about the next big opportunity that could be very successful. The speed and proliferation of mass adoption of smart phones only goes to show that it’s possible to get a global penetration of hardware devices within 3 years. And that was 5 years ago.

Because it’s all what we are actually looking for. It’s the never ending thirst for more and better that the human race is seeking. We don’t want to waste time talking to people we don’t want to talk to. We don’t want to sift through information that’s not useful to us.

We want every minute of our lives to be valuable and meaningful and any technology that helps promote that is going to be extremely well adopted.

Scary really, isn’t it?

♦ End

About Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson founded GCOMM in 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Information Systems from Griffith University and his MBA from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Holland. He believes in building great teams of people, both in business and socially.
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  • Vlada Milanovic

    One thing is certain Pete, no blind date will ever be “blind”!