Most people agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will play a major role in our future. While the exact timing of artificial general intelligence and the robot uprising is up for debate, there is no denying that AI is already having a significant impact on many sectors.
We got a chance to see some practical, novel and not-that-exciting-but-impactful uses of AI at the Science Museum in Boston. Let’s talk about a few of them to open our eyes to the many tasks that AI can help us with.
Immersive and interactive learning
When it comes to the training of pilots, the virtual cockpit is an invaluable tool. We just can’t have trainee pilots taking charge of large aircraft with hundreds of people on board when a crash doesn’t usually leave survivors. It’s a good thing that we don’t see “L” plates on top of Boeing 777s.
Pilots have to get training though and the most important training they get is in a virtual cockpit. It’s a simulation of a real plane, real flight paths and realistic weather conditions. Proficiency in that virtual plane translates to proficiency in the real thing.
Imagine applying the same kind of virtual learning to regular people skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and creativity.
Virti is all about “training teams smarter in an immersive learning world.” They use immersive technology to replicate high-pressure real-world work situations.
They use real-world 360-degree video supported by virtual reality environments. Users get to roleplay with AI-powered human avatars and the program can instantly spot good and poor performance and know where to improve in seconds.
One of the examples given was of how Virti’s AI is being used to teach people skills to healthcare professionals. AI-powered virtual patients are being used to allow healthcare organisations to train their clinicians on empathy and patient communication.
If you have been to a public hospital in the past two decades or so you know just how much this kind of thing is needed in Zimbabwe.
Strategy in advertising
Business owners may like this idea, but consumers may not be too thrilled.
Some advertisers are using AI to target their ads to the most receptive audience, thus personalising the ad experience to the consumer.
AI is really good at pattern recognition and it will be able to pick out the most suggestible among us and help advertisers pelt them with expertly crafted ads.
That sounds a little dystopian if I’m being honest. On the other hand, it has never been easier to run a successful ad campaign for all you entrepreneurs out there.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when a salesman won’t tell you the price of their product. This is common on the streets of Harare. You ask, ‘How much is this?’ and they reply, ‘How much do you want to pay?’ Oh, I hate it.
They want to make sure that they charge you the most that you are willing to pay, not what the product/service is actually worth.
Well, AI is helping businesses do just that. Retail companies are using AI to set optimal prices for their products. In some cases, prices are even tailored to the individual consumer.
I can’t say I’m thrilled about this.
This has been a thing for a while now. Smart fitness mirrors can use AI to personalise workouts and provide feedback to the user on their performance. It’s like having your own personal trainer at home.
Benefits for the user include; personalisation, real-time feedback, interactive workouts, data tracking and analytics, convenience, accessibility and more.
I’ve been putting off a more active lifestyle for the longest time and maybe this kind of product could be the exact thing to get me over that first hurdle.
Finding new drugs is a challenging process, more akin to finding a needle in a haystack than anything else. Hence it is slow and expensive.
AI is helping in the drug discovery process mainly because it is good at data crunching. It can analyse libraries of scientific papers and clinical trial results faster than any human ever could.
Pair that with AI being good at simulating experiments in a virtual world, optimising clinical trials, designing new drug molecules and being able to spot existing drugs that could be used for new purposes and you have quite the capable digital assistant.
Today, many pharmaceutical companies are using AI to identify candidate drug molecules that can be synthesised and tested.
Supporting mental health – Experts say AI has the potential to improve mental healthcare by identifying early signs of mental illness, matching patients to therapists and assessing treatment progress.
Customised sound – AI-based hearing aids can learn a user’s listening preferences and strive to amplify only the most important sounds at different locations.
Predicting crime – AI software can help police departments predict where crime is likely to occur. Some argue that this software could be used to target specific people and neighbourhoods unfairly.
Making lethal decisions – Drones with the ability to kill without human oversight have already been used. Some are asking whether AI-based drones should make decisions of their own when lives are at stake.
High-tech surveillance – Some police departments are using AI-powered facial recognition technology to identify individuals in photos and videos.
Fraud detection – By using AI to compare incoming claims to prior data, insurance companies can spot fraud, such as an individual attempting to collect payment on a fake car accident.
Identifying plastic waste – AI systems that use drone or satellite imagery to identify and quantify floating plastic in the water can help conservationists focus their efforts.
Predicting weather – Trained on past data, AI weather prediction systems are improving both short-term and seasonal weather forecasts.
Self-driving tractors – Places like Zimbabwe are still far from getting self-driving cars because our roads are not clearly marked in most places. However, self-driving tractors are meant to be used in the fields where there are no road markings and so could be utilised in the country today.
There is an AI-enabled tractor from John Deere that can independently navigate and plough fields, presumably allowing farmers to attend to other tasks.
Spotting wildfires – There is some AI software in development that can detect wildfires earlier using camera footage. They predict that it will help humans predict wildfires before they even start.
Join the hype train or fall behind
It’s easy to look at all this and think Zimbabwe has more pressing issues to think about these things. That would be a mistake as AI could help us catch up quicker as the evangelists have repeatedly told us.