Looking Forward: Big Artificial Intelligence Predictions for 2017

Looking Forward: Big Artificial Intelligence Predictions for 2017
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2016 has been a big year for artificial intelligence with some amazing developments and milestones. AlphaGo (Google DeepMind) defeated Lee Sedol at the game of Go, we saw significant upgrades in self-driving technology and virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant became more popular than ever. So what’s in store for 2017? Here’s just a glimpse of what we have to look forward to.

More advanced, human-like personal assistants

While personal assistants like Amazon Echo have the capacity to do sophisticated web searches, play music and answer questions, the next step in AI is humanization. Friendlier, more casual devices will become a more complementary part of our households, ultimately making us more willing to invite them to be a part of our lives and become a true extension of ourselves. For example, there’s Olly (being showcased at CES 2017). It does many of the same things as other assistants, like connecting to your smart home, weather reports, etc. but what really sets it apart is its personality. With a cute exterior, shaped like a doughnut, Olly can predict behaviors and offer follow up questions related to previous requests. This learning capacity gives it the ability to substantially improve over time, potentially setting a new standard for this type of AI-driven smart home technology.

Democratization of AI technology

Harry Shum, executive VP of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research Group sees a future of AI helping combat humanity’s most pressing issues, explaining in an interview with The Huffington Post, “In 2017 we’ll see increased acceleration in the democratization of AI for every person and every organization. With advances in technology, computers will gain even greater ability to see, hear and understand our world — to make us more productive, to have more fun and also enable greater strides towards solving some of society’s most pressing challenges like fighting disease, ignorance, and poverty.” This kind of democratization of artificial intelligence could mean enormous strides for the industry as a whole. Microsoft claims their digital assistant Cortana has received more than 12 billion search queries and has 133 million active users today, making the system more intelligent about the world and capable of putting complex information across multiple platforms in context.

China’s Investment in AI could result in an industry boom

According to the MIT Technology Review, this could be the year where China makes a big entry into AI and becomes a significant player in the field. The Chinese entrance into the market looks to be promising, with companies like shopping site Baidu and hugely popular messaging app WeChat building up AI divisions. The Chinese government has also committed to investing roughly $15 billion in AI by 2018. With massive amounts of money pouring into the development of AI projects as well as R&D, potentially substantial growth could occur in all areas of the industry.

The distinction between man and machine could blur (in chat anyway)

Some, like Jim McHugh, VP and General Manager at Nvidia see a very big year for AI in 2017, explaining in an interview featured in The Huffington Post: “In 2017 there will be a chatbot that passes the Turing test, exhibiting responses so human-like that an average person wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s human or machine.” With Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon all working on technologies to make interaction between machines and humans more natural, realistic and streamlined, perhaps by the end of the year we won’t be able to easily tell if the person on the other end of a tech support call is a person or a machine.

2017 is the year people demand semi-autonomous vehicles

While it’s hard to predict exactly when we’ll move to fully autonomous vehicles, the gradual process of people migrating to smarter, AI-powered cars is already taking place. With products like Navdy that projects GPS onto a user’s windshield and Tesla’s Autopilot which can help prevent a driver from getting into an accident, this tech is only expected to grow and improve over the course of 2017.

CES Day 3: Takeaways and Some Strange Products We Missed

CES Day 3: Takeaways and Some Strange Products We Missed
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We’re now on day three of this year’s CES, and clearly the big trend is the excitement surrounding AI devices. With what seems like every major tech company putting massive investments into AI, a wide array of unique robots and virtual assistants have been wowing crowds this year. Virtual reality doesn’t look like it took the kinds of leaps many analysts were hoping for, but remains relevant and growing regardless. And as usual, CES continues to feature a variety of outright funny, bizarre products — many of which are still quite useful.

2017 is the year of the robot

With Amazon Alexa and virtual assistants built on its platform, CES has seen a blooming of robotics and home assistants ready for mass consumption. With bots like Olly that can understand human emotions, a prototype robotic barista from Bubblelab that likes to chat, a mobile house robot named Kuri and Lenovo’s colorfully designed smart assistant, there’s no shortage of robots that could live in our homes and work where we work. The shift hasn’t just been in raw computing capacity, but rather in the humanization of robots, making them cuter, friendlier and more like a pet we’d gladly welcome into our lives. Robots being showcased at CES include a number of useful household companions, with ones that can sort laundry (Laundroid), monitor babies (Aristotle), mow the lawn (Robo Mower) and help out in the kitchen (Mikie).

VR wasn’t quite as big as expected

This is not to say there haven’t been amazing demonstrations in VR — HTC Vive’s TPCast untethering virtual reality from the PC will undoubtedly make the experience substantially more lifelike. Taclim’s VR shoes also showcased some fascinating technology, using haptic feedback to create the illusion of walking on a variety of different types of terrain while exploring a virtual landscape. Along the same lines of VR shoes (and if walking’s not your thing), the Hypersuit gives users a vivid experience of flying. The user lays stomach down on a table, pulling on handles to control their arms to experience virtual wingsuit flying, being Superman, a bird or a bat — anything that might fly.

Laptops have gotten big this year —literally

While there have been exciting developments in touchscreen Chromebooks with Samsung’s Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro, along with the continuing trend of slimmer, stylish PCs, the big buzz this year has been on big laptops. Really big ones.

The Acer Predator 21X is an a monstrous machine, weighing close to 20 pounds and measuring in at 3.27 inches thick. The real appeal isn’t just its size however; it’s that gorgeous 21 inch curved display for immersive gaming. With a resolution of 2560 x 1080 it has a solid resolution, but not the most spectacular one out there. The Predator 21X is catered to people looking for the ultimate desktop replacement packed with powerful features and at least a degree of portability. It sports the latest in processing power with a 7th generation Intel Core i7 chip and dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards, along with 64GB of ram. Storage is massive, fitting up to four 512GB solid state drives, and the 21X comes with a variety of ports, even ones that might seem outdated, like Ethernet. The cost isn’t for the budget shopper, coming in at just under $9,000.

The other big laptop generating a lot of buzz this year is Razer’s Project Valerie, another enormous machine with three foldout 17.3 inch monitors each sporting 4K resolution. As far as a creative, immersive, portable workstation’s concerned, it’s hard to imagine anything outdoing this.

Some of the weirdest (but possibly still useful) products so far

Sensorwake Oria - If waking up to regular alarm clocks is a struggle, the Sensorwake Oria might do the trick. It uses disgusting smells to really punctuate the point that it’s time to get up.

Auri Eye Massager - In a future where we might start using VR and straining our eyes a lot of the day, what better way to unwind than with a refreshing eye massage? The Auri eye massager uses water along with warm and cool compresses to get the job done.

Spartan Radioactive Protection Underwear - The idea here is for these boxer briefs to serve as a barrier to protect against radioactive waves emitting from the technology we’re using today.

LG Tone Studio - These are speakers for your neck. This enormous looking necklace-like device creates a personal sound experience without the constraint of headphones or earbuds. Perhaps a bit quirky, but it could be a useful, less confining alternative to day-long headphone use.