In 2002, iRobot announced a vacuum cleaner called “Roomba”. Unlike other vacuum cleaners of its time, the Roomba cleaned entire rooms all by itself. It used sensors to avoid obstacles and navigate to places unreachable by hand to clean the floor. The Roomba earned its way into Time magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2002”, and it was one, of many, breakthrough innovations that has brought us artificial intelligence.
Fast forward 15 years. You are now talking to your phone to do things. You are searching billions of data points for the perfect answers. You are surrounded by artificial intelligence - and sometimes, you don’t even realize that AI is serving you. Artificial Intelligence has become the bread and butter of the technology industry today. Whether you are receiving help from an automated call center or predicting weather patterns, you are probably being assisted by AI some way or the other. And the technology industry is creating new application of artificially intelligent systems every other day, making it one of the fastest growing trends of the 21st century.
The current state of AI
Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri both made huge strides this year. Both assistants are contextually aware, so they understand follow up conversation-style questions. They now not only process natural language better, but also speak more naturally. Now that Siri, Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa connect with so many third party services, they are coming extremely popular in home and car automation.
A Verton Analytics report from July 2017 showed that 43% of all smartphones have an AI application installed and used - that is 72 million smartphones with AI powered assistants. Moreover, it was predicted by Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz that over 10 million Google Home and Amazon Echo (or similar) products will be sold during just the Christmas Holidays of 2016. With so may voice assistants all around us, we can be assured that AI assistants are not going anywhere, and will significantly improve in the coming years.
AI adoption in the healthcare industry is already showing its benefits. It is constantly assisting doctors make better predictions, surgeons operate more precisely and researchers analyze complex data. An Accenture report states that the AI healthcare market will reach $61billion, at an impressive annual growth rate of 40%. Currently, robot assisted surgeries is the biggest application of AI in the healthcare industry, followed by virtual nursing assistance and administrative assistance.
Google Deepmind Health, for example, uses AI to mine people’s health data to improve speed and efficiency of treatment. IBM’s Watson can help provide accurate treatment plans for cancer patients. Mazor Robotics is developing robots to assist in minimally invasive surgeries. Sense.ly uses an app to connect patients with their doctors, and uses AI to analyze data monitored by sensors on the patient to send it to the doctor.
The connected smart-car system is right on the horizon, and will take over our roads sooner than later. Automobile safety systems, especially self-driving capabilities, are largely powered by artificial intelligence that sits right in the car. Tesla is undoubtedly the leader in this space, and their newest (and most affordable) vehicle, the Model 3, will play a vital role in giving everyone access to smart vehicles.
There is a lot more happening in the world of artificial intelligence - including the worry that AI will take over the earth. But that’s for another post. Whatever the case, AI is here and about, and is core to many modern tasks. It is interesting to note that the response to AI has been very positive, and AI contributions have led to big progress in all industries.
I enjoy visiting Apple stores. On one hand, there’s the bustle - of so many people buying products, waiting for service, talking to assistants - and on the other hand, its a sanctuary for exploration - as you can play all you want on the Apple TV, edit videos on the most powerful MacBook Pro, or even draw something with the Apple Pencil. Apple stores have come a long way in improving their quality, and Apple Orchard Road is a great example.
I was lucky enough to visit Apple Orchard Road, Singapore, in its opening month. The big deal about this store? It is the first official Apple store in Southeast Asia. Until now, Apple could only sell their products via resellers, but that meant less competent salesmen, added costs and possibly lower quality service. Moreover, resellers can never truly replicate the Apple store experience. Which is why I was extremely excited about it.
Apple Orchard Road
Apple Orchard Road is a very large store - especially from the outside. Plants surround the footpath in front of the store. You look into the store though the glass panels that make up most of the front. Inside, the ground floor has everything Apple has to sell - new MacBook models, 5K displays, iPhone and iPad Pro models in all colours, iMac computers and tons of headphones, drones and accessories. Castagna stone staircases take you to the upper floor - The Forum - where all the fun stuff, including Today At Apple sessions, take place. Apple employed 237 employees to manage this two floor store; overkill, but understandable.
I didn’t buy anything at the Apple store, but I really enjoyed using the 10.5” iPad Pro and the recently upgraded MacBook Pro and iMac models. Having visited so many Apple stores before, Apple Orchard Road didn't feel too new, thanks to the same colour combinations and basic design aesthetics. However, The Forum was unique, and I had never seen anything like that in an Apple (or even any other electronics) store.
The Forum makes up the entire top floor. One wall has a massive display for live art and presentations by Today At Apple presenters. There are plants scattered around, with seats beneath them. Then there are tables and chairs for smaller Today At Apple sessions. Apple employees will help you set up your devices or help you make movies on Final Cut Pro X all on this floor. According to me, this is the heart of Apple Orchard Road.
Today At Apple - Photo Walk with Jeryl (@j9ryl)
The reason I visited the Apple Store was to attend a Today At Apple event I had signed up for a few weeks back:
Being a 5:30 PM photo walk on a warm cloudy day, I expected quiet a good attendance. I was right: people of all ages turned up. The session began with a presentation from Jeryl, explaining photo composition and other tips. This would help us click better pictures during the walk. Honestly, this first half-hour was the best part of the Photo Walk experience, as Jeryl showed us his best iPhone shots and explained to us how he shot them.
After that, we went for a walk to two specific locations to photograph there. We spent about an hour walking and taking pictures. A few Apple employees walked with us to take pictures of us participating in the event. We came back to the Store and Jeryl gave us tips on editing our photos. He explained the various options on Snapseed and VSCO and how he used them. Many of us followed along.
The whole process was worth it. I would have never visited this over-bridge to take a picture of it if it weren’t for this event. I’m also happy that I got to meet a photography pro and learn meaningful tips from him through his photos. It was a great experience overall, and I totally would do a Photo Walk again - but perhaps a different one.
If well executed, Today At Apple is a really cool concept. Of course, this is a platform for Apple to promote their products. However, I’m glad that Jeryl was allowed to show us how to edit on Snapseed even though it is a Google app. In fact, you can do a Today At Apple event without even owning an Apple product… you’ll never be denied to use your Android device or your DSLR doing a photo walk.
Except if you don’t have access to Today At Apple, you should try it. Albeit short in time, it is a good experience. Plus, you learn things you may have known. You can book a Today At Apple event here.
There you go! A short account of my experience. Give it a go for yourself ?.
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Art & Craft is a lot of fun, especially among kids. But what about teaching concepts of electricity - like circuits, LEDs and motors - through “drawing” and folding?
AgIC is a Japanese company that aims to do exactly that, using special markers and papers. Their Circuit Marker, which retails for just $14.99, can allow electricity to pass though just one stroke of its ink. The marker only works on special paper sold by the company that costs $37.49 for 10 (A4 size) sheets. And after you are done with the project, you can easily erase the ink using the Circuit Eraser, that costs $7.50.
The formula? Ag: Silver. The Circuit Marker contains silver that allows it to be conductive. The special paper allows the ink to dry immediately for maximum effectiveness. Moreover, the Circuit Eraser can be used to erase off the circuit!
While it might be slightly costly, the Circuit Marker and Paper make for a great educational kit. The ability for students to put their ideas to work on paper already sounds attractive. AgIC’s website also features a lot of projects that you can do with the marker and paper.
For their innovation, AgIC has won two Editor's Choices at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, Microsoft Japan Innovation Award and the second prize of Global Fab Awards in FAB10, the International FabLab Conference.
You can learn more about AgIC and buy their products on their website: https://agic.cc/en/