While much of the tech media have been focusing on the goings on at the Mobile World Congress, some of the more interesting stories of the week are to be found elsewhere. While the differences between this year’s smartphones and last year’s models are becoming increasingly difficult to discern, the same is not true for the goings on in the world of Artificial Intelligence. Already a topic of a blog post of mine a short time ago, there have been some particularly interesting goings on as of late.
Google’s DeepMind takes on healthcare
DeepMind, the UK-based company owned by Google have announced Streams, their first healthcare product. This is a mobile app developed in partnership with medical experts at the Royal Free London. It aims to quickly identify patients at risk of Acute Kidney Injury, a condition that is apparently a contributory factor to around 40,000 deaths in the UK. Although DeepMind specialise in Deep Learning algorithms, this product is the product of a company called Hark, which Google are acquiring.
DeepMind, the company inside Google whose AI will soon take on the world champion of Go, is venturing into a new field: healthcare. It announced on Wednesday the launch of DeepMind Health, an initiative to create apps for medical professionals that can help identify patients at risk of complications; acute kidney injury is the group’s initial focus.
Verdict: Not transformative, but Healthcare will be a big bet for Google
IBM’s large-scale sleep study
Google are not the only tech giant to be focusing AI efforts into the healthcare space. This week, in addition to announcing massive job cuts, IBM introduced a sleep analysis app that hooks into its Watson AI platform. Using the motion sensors and heartrate sensors in the Apple watch, this app is designed to collate enormous amounts of detailed information on the sleep patterns of large number of users (referred to as ‘participants’. This data is then fed into the data analytics platform of the Watson engine to support and carry out research into the relationships between sleep, health, medical conditions and general well-being. The end aim of this platform will be to extend beyond sleep and help understand the early symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. One cannot fault this initiative for a lack of ambition.
It is a known fact that lack of a good night’s sleep can impact human health in several ways. To figure out how sleeping well benefits the health, tech giant IBM and the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) have launched a new iOS app.
Verdict: One of the first Health Care initiatives to truly tie in wearables, AI and massive-scale Big Data
Amazon cements itself as the leader in smart home voice control
I have already written admiringly about the strides forward being made by Amazon in creating a voice-control ecosystem centred around its Alexa voice recognition platform. After opening up the platform using the Alexa Voice Service API, Amazon have now released a two new devices that broaden the access to and accessibility of the service. The Tap is a seemingly mundane Bluetooth speaker, but one that also includes a microphone and WiFi connectivity to hook up to the Alexa voice system. The Dot is a small speaker/mic that effectively acts as a second or third Echo system, allowing people interact with Alexa across the home. Although the term ‘trojan horse’ is often dished around with wilful abandon, in this case, these devices fully deserve the moniker. By getting more of these devices into people’s homes, Amazon can build up the data set used by its learning algorithms, improving its recognition accuracy as well as the reliability of its ability to correctly interpret what its users want. Amazon claim that the devices do not listen continuously, and are only activated when the user says a given keyword. I believe however that it is likely only a matter of time before we start to see products that capture each and every word that is said in their vicinity. This will bring user profiling and targeted advertising to a whole new level.
Amazon.com Inc. wants to stick a few microphones around your house. On Thursday, the online retailer and tech giant unveiled two little devices, Tap and Echo Dot, which contain speakers and microphones to connect to its Alexa voice-controlled artificial intelligence. They follow the Echo, an Internet-connected shelf speaker that’s become a cult hit in the past year.
Verdict: Transformative Potential
The “Ambition Engine”
A bunch of young engineers in Silicon Valley are hard at work to use AI to improve the contextual-relevance of search results. The brainchild of a young Chinese serial-entrepreneur, the aim of Brain LLC is to modestly “serve as a complement to a users own brain”. The company claims that they have already developed an algorithm that improves the relevance of search results. by anticipating its users’ needs. Here however seems to be a tech start-up owner talking up, by anticipating in .
Fifteen miles away from where Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked out of their first office developing the technology that would become Google, a team of eleven engineers no older than 20 are hard at work on developing what they hope will be its replacement.