Google is working on a countless number of projects, and I/O is, as always, an exciting time to see what’s happening at the tech giant. This year’s Google I/O keynote was much like their previous keynotes - lots of projects with a wide variety of impact.
While critics could complain that there was no big release during this keynote, not even Android P, I think the scattered approach to bring ML to literally everything Google makes is a big enough deal in itself. Google has been crunching data at godspeed with its custom Tensor Processing Units (TPUs). Today, they launched the v3 of their physical TPUs, which have some fancy liquid cooling for significant gains in performance. Google’s approach of adding AI to almost all applications, including Google Photos and Maps, is surely going to pay off - with millions of people already depending on it, it will save time and money.
All that said, my favourite part of this event is the new Google Assistant appointment booking feature.
When you ask Google Assistant to set an appointment with a business that doesn’t support online reservations, the Assistant will call the business and speak to a person in a real conversation. It sounds sci-fi, but the Assistant can actually converse beautifully. Take a look:
(The video below starts playing at 1:55:40 seconds)
The assistant handles this conversation just like a human. But what’s more impressive is the way it handles non-ideal situations:
(starts playing at 1:57:56)
Now, Pichai did confirm that this does not always work. Nonetheless, the potential is huge. Using TensorFlow to train a speech synthesizer - something that Google’s DeepMind has spent years on, WaveNet - with millions of phone calls is already a great start.
Google I/O had a few more interesting bits I would like to share. The company is also bringing AR to maps, to make directions better and having a “visual positioning system” VPS. They are also bringing huge improvements to Google Lens. See this really cool demo here:
(starts playing at 2:45:26)
And finally, on Android P, they are pushing hard on Digital Wellbeing - managing screen time and app usage, while handling annoying notifications better.
(starts playing at 2:31:05)
All in all, Google’s keynote this year was a fantastic peek into what’s coming in our lives. As a computer science student, it inspires me to deep-dive into machine learning and make something cool with frameworks like TensorFlow.
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.
Yes, the Iron Man suit. That’s what I imagine Augmented Reality to be.
The days of augmented reality headsets like the Hololens are still far off. However, we carry high resolution screens and powerful cameras in our smartphones. Using phones as a means to augment reality will make this technology available to the masses.