The "10 technology trends" and "5 ways the Internet of Things (IoT) will change your business next year" prognostications are coming out. I always read these and enjoy the critical thinking behind the authors' lists. And every year I think about looking back at last year's lists to see how well the forecasters did, but there isn't much value in "I told you so" whether you are saying it or hearing it so I let that urge pass. I find more value in learning from mistakes and successes in the analysis than judging the forecasts. So this year I thought I would do something a little different.
To showcase the latest in artificial intelligence, Microsoft recently hosted an "underground" tour, two days' worth of virtual reality demos, product prototypes, programming and platform innovation, research news and philosophical musings on the future of AI from technological, social and business perspectives. AI progress can be attributed to a number of factors, including advancements in processing power, powerful new algorithms, data availability, cloud computing, and machine and deep learning capabilities. One of the more compelling milestones that furthered the cause for many applications was Microsoft's achievement late last year of error rates that are on par with, if not better than, human benchmarks – under 5.9 percent for speech recognition and 3.5 percent for image recognition. Autonomous cars, smart homes, automated assistants, translation apps, virtual and augmented reality were all represented over the course of the event as part of the AI spectrum. But the most compelling discussions were those that went beyond technical wizardry (which was impressive in itself) to explore the social and cultural impacts of AI.
Indian philanthropist, cardiac surgeon and founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya, Devi Prasad Shetty pioneered the running of hospitals like a mix of Wal-Mart and a low-cost airline that resulted in the chain of'no-frills' Narayana Hrudayalaya clinics in southern India. Rapid advances in technology are promising to transform the service sector in much the same way as the industrial revolution in the 18th century reshaped manufacturing. As technologies become smarter, smaller, cheaper and more sophisticated there are few services that will not be affected. Developments in areas such as mobile technology, wearables, robotics, virtual reality, speech recognition and artificial intelligence will bring opportunities for a wide range of service innovations that have the potential to dramatically improve the customer experience, service quality and productivity all at the same time. Self-driving cars, drone-delivery and largely robot-staffed hotels and restaurants are only the beginning of this revolution, with new technologies creating opportunities for firms to become both cost-leaders and service-leaders in their respective industries.
The ability of artificial intelligence to make ethically sound decisions is a hot topic in debates around the world. The issue is particularly prevalent in discussions on the future of autonomous cars, but it spans to include ethical conundrums similar to those depicted in sci-fi flicks like Blade Runner.
IBM's foray into autonomous car design focuses on people with disabilities. The technology company last year unveiled its Watson-powered self-driving shuttle, called Olli. Sachin Lulla, global vice president for automotive strategy and solutions leader at IBM, said it's an example of the company's focus on providing personalized experiences for those who may otherwise struggle to drive. "This was a big experiment for IBM," he said Wednesday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars. "We wanted to build the world's most accessible vehicle."