AI Predictions for 2018

2017 was officially “The Year of AI”, with publications like The Wall Street Journal and Forbes making that call. And the venerable Time magazine asked the seminal question in our minds, “Are Computers Already Smarter than Humans”?

AI outperformed professional players, most notably in beating a Chinese master at “Go”. Real time speech translation is becoming more powerful every day and in next five years, my Spanish would be as good as my Japanese, thanks to the AI and machine learning.

These are just a few of the milestones AI reached in 2017. So what’s next? As artificial intelligence continues to disrupt multiple industries — I think 2018 is going to be transformative. Here are my top predictions:

The Cambrian Explosion of AI Technologies in 2018

In a recent survey, McKinsey estimates ~40% of leading companies have deployed AI technologies or machine learning models in their business. While an all-encompassing, multi-functional AI that assists us in every aspect of our life is many years away, we see the “Cambrian Explosion” of different AI technologies and applications, each with a specific niche.

This is indeed a good sign. Just like the mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian age filled every niche 541 million years back, various AI technologies and experimentation within different industries will make AI more mainstream. Couple of areas of personal interest to me are:

  • Software 2.0: AI writing software: Unlike software 1.0, which is written in Python, Java or C++ with explicit instructions, Software 2.0 is written in neural network weights with no humans are involved in writing code. In short, AI writing your code
  • Explainable AI: understanding the black box: Most AI in existence today are “black boxes”; they offer little insights on how the outcome was reached. Explainable AI aims to develop techniques that produce more interpretive models. This is critical in long term : an explainable and transparent AI is critical to establish trust and encourage faster adoption

AI will Create Contents we’ll Enjoy

Noticed how Netflix is getting better at recommendations of late? Well, not only it gave you better contents, Netflix has reportedly saved over a billion dollar on content creation and management by using AI. On the news front, leading UK news agency Press Association (PA) is betting that AI can fill the gap left by former reporters and shuttered local newspaper offices. Using Natural Language Recognition (NRG) technology, PA aims to create 30,000 localized news reports every month. Muses Jan Kautz, an AI researcher at NVIDIA, “imagine a future music service that doesn’t just play existing songs you might like, but continually generates new songs just for you.” Many contents that you will soon see, hear or read may indeed AI-generated.

Figure 1: Many contents that you will see, hear or read would be generated by AI soon, including some incredible arts being generated by Google’s AI (Source: Google)

Smart Assistants will Run our Lives

Our personal assistants (PAs) are continuously getting smarter. Today we have a plethora of chatbots, recommendation engines and personal assistants, proving bits and pieces of answers and assistance. As these PA bots learn more about our daily routine and integrate that information across platforms and applications, I can imagine a day that I won’t forget about dinner, which I occasionally do when busy. My smart assistant will know which days of the week I typically work late, confirm my location from my phone and order my favorite take-out meal. Other days, with awareness of ingredients in my fridge from my shopping order my smart PA will suggest dishes cooking at home.

Talking to Machines will become Normal

Amazon sold “tens of millions” echo devices this Christmas, yet besides occasionally asking for weather or for a song to play, most of us have not gotten used to the idea of talking to a machine. In fact, a chatbot for customer services, even when it provides faster and more accurate information than a human customer support agent, isn’t preferred by most users yet.

The reason is threefold: first, Alexa/ Siri/ Google voice still needs a lot of practice before it can understand us, especially for those who have accents. Friction will reduce as the speech recognition technologies improve.

Second, as natural language processing improves in 2018 and get better at picking up on human intent and emotion, chatbots and messenger bots will understand us better and provide more contextual answers.

Finally, we will have more opportunities to interacting with machines. For example, many brands such as Disney, Marvel and Unilever have released chatbots to reach consumers in the channels they use daily. Innovative chatbots like Endurance is helping dementia patients having a better life, while Casper is helping insomniacs get through the night better. In the professional front, MedWhat is making medical diagnoses faster for doctors while helps real-estate marketers to automate interacting with potential leads and lead assignments.

AI, chatbots and conversational technologies are about to disrupt virtually every industry in 2018, so be prepared to see them in your house, work, and beyond! For those who still doubt that 2018 is the year for it, a tweet I saw on the first day of 2018 confirms it!

Fig 2: 3 year olds would be leading the human-Alexa interaction in 2018

AI will Run on Smartphones and we’ll be Thrilled

One of the first interfaces where we will notice vastly improved performance, productivity and personalization are smartphones running native AI and Deep Neural Networks on the devices itself. Some of noticeable impacts will be in:

  • vastly improved cameras that recognizes objects such as buildings, landscape or people and automatically adjust to the best mode
  • enhanced voice assistance with native AI integration, using speech recognition and Natural Language Processing
  • native AI capable of translating languages in real-time without the need of an internet connection
  • enhanced security through face/ iris recognition
  • enhanced user behavior adaption using AI, for example, data and battery usage, modes (automatically to silent mode during meeting) etc.

AI on smartphones will start to bridge vision, language and speech in such a way that the users will not be conscious about the differences anymore.

Figure 3: Your phone will use its mind to serve you in 2018 (Photo Credit: SIMCA)

AI will Start Taking Care of our Health and Well-being

While we will not see our Doctor from the Emergency Medical Hologram of Star Trek in 2018, impact of AI is already evident in healthcare, invisible to most patients. Behind the scene image recognition algorithms finding warning signs in mammograms or cataract images. On the research frontier, companies such as Deep Genomics is leveraging AI to help decode the meaning of a genome.

Figure 4: Your Emergency Medical Hologram won’t see you in 2018 (Photo Credit: Netflix)

We will also see more robots appearing in people’s home to provide them with companionship and help cope with disability and illness. Care and companion robots, already prevalent in Japan, will start being adopted in Europe. As they start demonstrating results, performances improve and costs go down, they are expected to become popular and could begin to become an common reality in 2018.

Summary and a Wish

2018 will be an exciting year for AI. As a practitioner in the field, my only new year’s wish for AI is that hype dies down and the job market finds a way to separate the 95% chaff from the 5% wheat in AI scientists. May be there is an AI application for that, too?

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Chief Data Scientist at Airtel, Prof/Scholar at IISc & MIT, worked for NASA and Facebook, built start-ups, and future settler for Mars & Tatooine

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Dr. Santanu Bhattacharya

Chief Data Scientist at Airtel, Prof/Scholar at IISc & MIT, worked for NASA and Facebook, built start-ups, and future settler for Mars & Tatooine