The True Meaning of A.I.

Written by Fred Bailey and Rob Yen

Lili Cheng is a VP at Microsoft AI & Research.  She recently contributed a thought-provoking article to TIME Magazine called Beauty in the Machine.

She tells us that Artificial Intelligence is one of the least understood breakouts in modern times.  “The magic of A.I. is that it’s not something you can see or touch.  You may not even realize you are using it.”  It’s a “new way of interacting with computers that won’t seem like computing at all.”

Lili Cheng, VP of Microsoft AI & Research

Artificial Intelligence is creating a technology that adapts to us, instead of the other way around.

A.I. research has been going on for as much as 50 years.  But now computers have the ability to recognize language and its complexity, mingling rational imperatives with “the unpredictability of human passion.”

The recent CES convention in Las Vegas heavily spotlighted smart-home devices, vocally-activated computer-operated systems that have been embedded in all kinds of everyday appliances and devices, including items where you wouldn’t even think it was necessary, such as toothbrushes, bathtubs and toilets.

Baidu, one of the largest internet companies in the world and a leader in A.I. research, says its core mission is to put intelligence into everything, and with manufacturers like Toyota, Samsung, and Amazon introducing new A.I.-enabled products at the convention, it gives a diverse scope of where the technology is heading.

And because of the unimaginably enormous volume of statistics, facts and figures being generated every minute of every day, only AI’s seemingly bottomless computing power can make sense of it all.

As Cheng concludes, “AI’s time is now.”

The AFTERMATH of CES 2018

Written by Fred Bailey

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show at the Convention Center in Vegas was a four-day extravaganza of glorious gadgetry.

Out of close to 4,000 exhibitors showcasing on more than 2.75 million square feet, fully a third were from China, with Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Huawei and many other Chinese giants front and center.

Baidu hosted a sensational opening press conference with a strong global outlook, featuring a number of smart hardware items leveraging its predominant A.I. capabilities.

Alibaba had two booths plus a big tent outside, conspicuously offering its data gathering, logistics and translation services.

Overall, the show has given a stock-market lift to several tech companies, including Netgear, Nvidia, Synaptics and Universal Display.  According to Investor’s Business Daily, Netgear shares climbed 10% last week, with Synaptics surging a potent 13.5%.

Nvidia picked up the Top Tech of CES 2018 award from consumer tech publisher Digital Trends, in recognition of its software, middleware and hardware, used in the A.I.-based autonomous automobile market.

Netgear had a strong product lineup with high-end gaming equipment and smart-home tech. Synaptics has developed fingerprint-sensing for smart phones, and Universal Display provides inside goodies for some of the most stunning big-screen TVs seen at CES.

Among the most impressive of those: The Wall, a 146-inch 8K TV from Samsung. That’s over 12 feet from corner to corner! 

Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro was another big winner, landing four CES 2018 awards from Android Authority, and the company’s CEO of its Consumer Business Group, Richard Yu, was a keynoter. Huawei will offer the phone in the U.S. for the first time next month. 

Hanhai Studio was there, in the middle of everything, along with 185,000 other CES attendees, following the big focus—which this year was not so much on VR and AR, as in previous years, but more on robotics, smart-home appliances and voice-activated peripherals.

Women in Tech: The Movement Towards Equality

Written by Andria Chek

“And the Cecil B. DeMille Award winner is…Oprah Winfrey!”

At the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, Winfrey’s speech became the talk of the town. She sought to empower women to take a stand against injustice and inequality by creating and telling their own stories. She didn’t limit her statements to only address women in the entertainment industry, but rather all women. With that, representation of women today is more important than ever, and we can see it happening across the realm of tech. Gender pay discrimination and lack of women in tech are just a few of many concerns that spotlight what’s been going on outside of Hollywood.

According to The New York Times, Iceland took progressive action to make it illegal to pay women less than men. Beginning this new year, companies are now legally required to get equal pay certification from the government. Maybe Google could learn a thing or two from Iceland, after being scrutinized for underpaying their female employees.

It was even noted in USA Today that at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest consumer tech conference, all keynote speakers were male. This brought CES unexpected backlash, and hashtags #CESSoMale and #HereWeAre, were generated on Twitter to expand women’s voices. If there weren’t enough women at CES, you can look forward to the Women in Technology Summit next week and the Wonder Women Tech Washington, D.C. Global Summit later this year.

Additionally, well-known philanthropist Melinda Gates has put one foot forward as she calls for the inclusion of more women. Gates strives to use her computer science expertise by making tech as accessible and interesting to women, paving the way for women to enter the tech world. She even states, “Women did not create the barriers in tech and we cannot break them down all alone. Male allies are absolutely critical in this work and we’ll need more of them. But we can lead the way.”

Efforts such as these shed light on gender inequality and the need for diversity. Clearly, female under-representation hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the fight for justice for all women is going to keep moving forward.

VR SURGERY

Written by Fred Bailey

VR is transforming how surgeons train for real-life operations.

Health takes up 20% of the economy and technology isn’t far behind at about 10%, so new technological applications in medicine can have a profound effect.

In the past, surgeons used to train on realistic molded plastic dummies (not to mention cadavers).  Those were expensive and each model could only be used one time.

Surgical simulation companies can now offer Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) of human-specific anatomy to train surgeons and their teams, and even to educate patients on what’s going to happen in the operating room.

Data shows that VR training sessions, which can include tactile feedback, can reduce surgical errors by half.  That’s a significant decrease.

Surgical simulation companies can now offer Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) of human-specific anatomy to train surgeons and their teams, and even to educate patients on what’s going to happen in the operating room.

Data shows that VR training sessions, which can include tactile feedback, can reduce surgical errors by half.  That’s a significant decrease.

One Ohio startup uses a patient’s CT scan or MRI to generate a 3D model so the team can do pre-operative prep, including rehearsing complicated procedures.

Clinical applications of VR are already in high demand at medical schools.

An anatomy professor has observed that cadavers and textbooks can only go so far, noting that VR is a gigantic improvement on learning, letting students see the relationships between organs, muscles, and nerves, “zooming in to the microscopic level,” if they want.

Forbes Magazine quotes Mo Ben, CTO of The Body VR, remarking that “the medical field is receptive to disruptive new technology.  They see how flexible, personal and inexpensive it can be.”

GAMING VISIONARIES

Written by Fred Bailey

The ongoing struggles and travails of the video game industry to expand the confines of VR is pushing other segments of the entertainment business to sit up and take notice.

Baobab Studios is a California-based VR animation company that produces interactive stories, developing tales in tandem with John Legend.

Maureen Fan, Baobab’s CEO, told the New York Times, “It took many years for gaming to advance, just like it took decades for film to figure out its language of cuts, pans and zooms.”

Her studio is working on new ways to apply VR, such as voice recognition, AI, and something called co-presence that allows two or more players to join in together.

“Games are often about being someone else or escaping to another reality,” Fan says.  “Therefore, V.R. intersects directly with gaming.  We are at the very beginning of creating this industry.”

But VR faces some formidable obstacles in gaming, like easing the nausea that some people feel after they’ve put on a VR headset.

Ray Davis, CEO of Seattle startup Drifter Entertainment, says, “What needs to happen is for the early visionaries to stay the course, the investors to continue subsidizing the first wave of content until the economics are in place, and the platforms to continue maturing their hardware to bring in more consumers.”

His company is in the midst of building a VR multiplayer sci-fi shooter game.

He concludes, “All we need right now is a healthy dose of patience.”