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Tag Archives: AI

Your input matters as robots with facial expressions and emotional intelligence emerge

What might you get if you affix an android head onto a metal and plastic life-size body? More than a bobble-head, for sure. especially if there’s a whole bunch of robotics, plus artificial intelligence under the hood.

The android known as Sophia debuted at the Future Investment Initiative, an event with speakers as varied as Richard Branson, to Nicolas Sarkozy, to Maria Bartiromo. Indeed Sophia made recent headlines because Saudi Arabia granted it ‘citizenship’ – whatever that means. Let that sink in for a moment – giving civic status to a machine.

Hansen Robotics, the workshop where Sophia was built has several models. A bald-headed Han, a 17 inch tall boy robot called Zeno, and a full-sized animatronic, Albert Einstein. These bots use facial tracking, natural language processing, and their creators plan on developing Emotional Intelligence for Einstein.

Robotics is a double-edged sword. I cover robotics, help train students, and often talk of being alert to where all this could be headed. Governments, labs, schools, policy-makers and ethicists should be joining the debate. (Recall Elon Musk and others sounded a warning that AI could threaten human civilization.) It shouldn’t be a conversation dominated by those in technology alone.

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Robots vs Teachers. Expecting a standoff?

I’ve got this poster in my class that says “Technology won’t replace teachers. But teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who do not.”  

It raises a few of eyebrows.

So I was intrigued by a story in Education Week last month about how ‘intelligent tutors’ could upend Teachers’ jobs. The story cites an EdTech professor at the Harvard’s Grad School of Education. Christopher Dede says, “AI changes teaching, yes, but more important than that, AI changes the goals and purposes of teaching.”  Besides the reference to Artificial Intelligence are references to a ‘Tutor Machine,’ cognitive tutoring, and ‘Intelligent Tutoring Systems’ or ITS.

I’m not surprised this discussion is veering into the AI realm. It’s not just about data, but about knowing when to intervene. It will nudge teaching away from the ‘factory’ model and into a consultative approach.

The old guard armed with rubrics and lecture notes will cry foul. The robots are not going to walk into our classrooms anytime soon. But technologies could emerge to phase out robotic teaching methods.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Education, Technology

 

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How indispensable could Alexa be?

I have been curious about Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, purely from a tech perspective. Also it’s interesting to keep an eye on where AI is going. It’s easy to be cynical, because a piece of always-on hardware that ‘listens’ to everything going on in your home all day is well, a bit creepy.

Not that it worries millions of iPhone users who also have an AI agent, Siri, just waiting to be asked something.  But these devices are prone to being hacked, besides invading one’s privacy. (I know of several people who have a sticker over the camera on their laptop lid, for good reason. Hey, Facebook’s Zuckerberg does!)

So a few days ago I tested Alexa in a friend’s home. He’s been using it a lot –he asks Alexa what’s the best route to work, and to play music off his playlist etc. I asked Alexa a simple question, “Alexa, How long will it take to get to the Moon?” Without missing a beat Alexa responded with an answer (3 days) qualifying it with something about development of rocketry. The next few questions a bit predictable, such as asking for the bio of a country singer, and to play some of Keith Urban’s music. When Alexa got stumped, it was probably my accent, or it did not get the context right.

But my friend says he asks Alexa to add items he will need in the store to his shopping cart, and picks up the list on his phone when he is in the store. He recently installed a smart thermostat so it is feasible that one day he could ask Alexa to change the temperature (and his wife could ask Alexa to change it back!) But as we brainstormed how it might change our lives I wondered, once the fascination (of talking to a piece of hardware) wears off, if we might find Artificial Intelligence too useful to ignore.

For instance, I would love to be able to ask Alexa or Google Home to:

  • Forward my article to LMD magazine, but please change the last sentence to (and I could dictate it). It would save me from logging back onto the computer, and opening my email etc.
  • Send a Text alert to my friend in Worcester (whose phone number I have forgotten) about an upcoming event
  • Buy a copy of a (name title of book) from Amazon, use Prime, and pay for it with my gift card, not a credit card.
  • Print a copy of my recent Lesson Plan on a black-and-white printer, double-sided, on Monday morning by the time I get to school

Will that day come soon? Are we there now? Is this too much information to be put out there in the cloud? Will Keith Urban send my daughter an autographed T-shirt? Just kidding!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Social Media, Technology

 

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Chamath Palihapitiya could throw a wrench into AI heavyweights

It’s always good to keep an eye on what Chamath Palihapitiya is up to. He has been building a team of ex-Googlers, and is supposed to be after the next generation of computing. A $10 million startup, to be sure!

This could signal a lot of things, depending which pair of lenses you put on. It probably has a lot to do with AI – Artificial Intelligence. For instance he hired away eight of the ten people at Goggle working on a secret project involving a chip with AI. He has poked fun at Watson, the IBM cloud-based machine learning application.

Watson, as you might be aware turned tables on Jeopardy and Go (the 2,500-year-old game), but has machine learning entrenched in many sectors from genomics to industrial safety. Google’s machine learning project, known by its bland name, Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), is underway.

Pahlihapitiya talks of ‘probabilistic‘ software that is changing how we depend on devices – a great shift from ‘deterministic’ software based on “if-the” sequences. Watch how he explains how machine learning and II is transforming, and will up-end computing. I bet Watson took in every word of this.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2017 in Disruptive, Sri Lanka, Technology

 

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If only schools can be like this!

I just interviewed Kris Canekeratne, CEO of Virtusa, a 20,000-strong global business consulting and IT outsourcing company headquartered in Massachusetts. Among the many strands we talked about, I was fascinated by his take on learning, and how schools ought to be the ‘ignition’ for curiosity.

“Students have an innate proclivity to curiosity,” he says – no different how engineers are inherently curious, with problem-solving and design thinking as part of their skill set. If only we could design schools to be the spark plugs of knowledge! It’s time we began exposing students to Big Data, Nanotech, AI, user experience, and gamification, he says, instead of teaching them how to memorize material just to pass exams.

To this end, here’s an example of design-thinking class at a Charter School in Berkeley, California.

 
 

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Could humans replace robots? (That’s not a typo)

When we teach students about robotics, it’s important to give them the big picture of why robotics is important. To do that it’s best to steer clear of the cliché that ‘Robotics are replacing people.’

So don’t you love this story that humans are being given back jobs that robots are not good at? Mercedes and Toyota have begun this, which is a surprise considering Toyota set the standard for automation in its factories. Remember ‘Lexus and the Olive Tree‘ in which Thomas Freedman described how cars were being manufactured by industrial robots?

Turns out humans, though easy to lay off, are better at keeping pace with changes and problem-solving.”The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” observed the head of production at Merc. They realize that humans are better at individualization, and dealing with variations. Robots, on the other hand, while they never need a lunch break of a sick day, work appear to be unable “to keep pace with changes.”

The point is not to teach young people to design robots that will replace human input but to manage them, and work alongside them.

If you subscribe to the opposite view, that robots are replacing humans, this story proves your point. It is a robot called Eve, a ‘robotic scientist’ that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Manchester.

 

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From HAL to Watson, AI is now more relevant than ever

Every time I overhear someone talking to Google to do a voice search, I am reminded the usual crop of techno futurologists from Asimov to Arthur C. Clarke to Ray Kurzweil who alerted us to the potential of AI. Just for the record I don’t buy Kurzweil’s funky ‘singularity‘ theory is about how around 1945, we will augment our bodies with super-intelligent machines…

Yet, AI is becoming more relevant. Consider what’s happening around autonomous cars. Hint: Google isn’t the only one in this race.Or consider the pace of robotics.

Sidebar: A few weeks ago I asked some students (2nd through 6th graders at a Montessori school) to design and build robots from assorted parts. Many of them gave them names, though that was not the requirement! They have no qualms about machines that might live’ alongside us. I once took some older students to visit a hospital and see a da Vinci surgical robot. They loved it! A bot that can cut and suture one of your body parts!

Back to AI. That famous ‘machine’ known as Watson, which beat humans in that game show Jeopardy, was able to search a massive databases and respond faster than Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. But that was not all. It also outsmarted them in strategy – that is in picking the categories that would win bigger. It is eerie to watch those rounds and see how a computer sitting in between two humans looks like. (It sounds human too, as it calmly picks a category such as ‘chicks dig me’ to the nervous laughter of the live audience.)

I was intrigued to read about how JWT, the agency that handled IBM and this show, was briefed on how to present Watson. At one time, the inventor behind it, specifically asked that Watson should not bear any resemblance to…HAL. If you know Stanley Kubrik’s and Arthur Clarke’s 2001: a Space Odyssey, you’ll know why. That softer logo ‘Smart Planet’ logo, derived from IBM’s larger project about a smarter planet was not supposed to look humanoid, or scare people.

Even those people who talk to their machines (Siri) or instruct them where to go (GPS).

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Technology

 

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