Artificial intelligence (AI) often gets a bad rap, with the headlines telling us that it will lead to super-intelligent robots taking over the world. Fears are growing too that the rapid growth of AI capabilities will lead to mass job losses in certain industries or will be harnessed by cybercriminals for nefarious means.
These concerns, while all valid, shouldn't mask the advancements the human race is achieving thanks to AI, in areas such as science, medicine and law enforcement.
Theresa May's recent announcement that the government is to invest millions in developing AI to aid its fight to catch cancer early is one prominent example.
In this article, CRN catches up with six firms - both in the channel and in the wider tech industry - that are using AI as a force for good.
Simon Parkinson, COO, DotGroup
AI application: Healthcare (Assistive technology)
DotGroup is a data management consulting firm that predominantly works with IBM technologies, including Watson. The company works with a number of charities who help people with limited mobility and communicative skills due to degenerative diseases or acquired brain injuries. "The systems that these people use to type messages, some computers will change that to voice or text. The speed with which those messages are created is extremely slow. The specific use that we are trying to develop with our AI solution is to improve the speed of that text space communication method by trying to use predictive text," Parkinson explained.
Dot Group is also using Watson's AI capabilities to determine the state of mind of the individual trying to communicate, in order to put emotion into their text.
What is the benefits of AI to this industry?
"One is it can remove the need for human interaction. A lot of the people that our charities work with need full-time carers and helpers. A lot of these people are locked in their homes with very little outside exposure. If that patient can communicate effectively without the need for a helper, then they gain more independence which improves their quality of life, which makes them less frustrated and makes them able to interact with the outside world in a more effective way.
"A second benefit is helping patients, particularly those with degenerative conditions like motor neurone disease. The patient's condition and symptoms change month by month, year on year to the point where they will die. Some will start able to use a keyboard, and then will have to move to using a joystick and then possibly using a switch in their eye muscle.
"The tech we deploy has to learn about that patient, it has to learn when the condition is deteriorating and then offer alternative communication aid for that. That can sometimes be hard for a human to detect."
What do you think about the negative perception and fears about AI?
"There are ten IBM partners who have come together with IBM to try to do some not-for-profit work with charities to try to help create some added value using IBM tech; it's called the Watson Guild. We are building prototypes for free and if we can actually build a prototype that adds value, the charity gets the intellectual property given to them at the end of the cycle.
"Sometimes chatbots and robots are replacing humans but unfortunately that's the nature of the world we live in - everyone's trying to save costs and exploit technology. But we've been doing that for 50 or 60 years; I don't think AI is any different.
"There are so many negative connotations around AI and robotics, ‘taking over humans' and all the rest. In this context, with the assistive tech, it's all about the patients. It's not about replacing humans, it's about giving [patients] a better quality of life, which typically means that they are healthier and more satisfied. It's frustrating when you see all the negative side of things."
Continue to next page to read how AI is aiding law enforcement...
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