If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Smart homes are one of those technology ideas that never seem to catch on, despite the efforts of technology heavyweights like Amazon and Google parent Alphabet. Could Roomba, the popular robotic vacuum cleaner, be the missing link that finally makes home automation useful and convenient? The key technology isn't the device's dirt-sucking aptitude, but its ability to create navigational maps of people's homes through an onboard camera, sensors, and software. The company added the feature to its more expensive models in 2015 so the robots could clean more efficiently, and it has been refined since. Soon Roombas will be able to recognize which rooms they're in and identify large objects located in those rooms, says iRobot CEO Colin Angle.
It's the year 2000, I'm just about eight years old, and it's my first day on AOL Instant Messenger. My fingers move clumsily across the plastic keyboard as I try to type fast enough to keep up with two cousins who are already seasoned AIM pros, sending me rapid-fire missives of excitement in our little online chat room. I'm in Boston and they're in New York, but "omg we can talk all the time!!!1!" We weren't alone in our excitement. First released in 1997, AIM was a popular way for millions of people to communicate throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, and it helped form Internet culture and communication as we know them today. It's where so many of us became fluent in LOL-ing and emoticons, and caught the itch to stay in constant contact with others no matter where we are.
Politics has become a technological arms race. In 2016, the Republicans fought back, using big-data analytics and microtargeting of online ads to help propel Donald Trump into the White House. Raffi Krikorian wants to get the Democrats out ahead again. As the chief technology officer of the Democratic National Committee, the MIT graduate is reshaping his party's tech strategy. Krikorian, an expert in software engineering, previously led Uber's Advanced Technologies Center and got its first fleet of driverless cars on the road.
When I look up, I can see wispy clouds passing overhead. Large photos hang on the gallery walls. They're pictures of a landscape devastated by war and portraits of men fighting in those wars. I hear footsteps behind me. I turn around and watch two figures enter the room and take up stations in front of the portraits.
It's the Monday morning following the opening weekend of the movie Blade Runner 2049, and Eric C. Leuthardt is standing in the center of a floodlit operating room clad in scrubs and a mask, hunched over an unconscious patient. "I thought he was human, but I wasn't sure," Leuthardt says to the surgical resident standing next to him, as he draws a line on the area of the patient's shaved scalp where he intends to make his initial incisions for brain surgery. "Did you think he was a replicant?" "I definitely thought he was a replicant," the resident responds, using the movie's term for the eerily realistic-looking bioengineered androids. "What I think is so interesting is that the future is always flying cars," Leuthardt says, handing the resident his Sharpie and picking up a scalpel.
Michael Cook, a 30-year-old senior research fellow at the University of Falmouth, has built an AI capable of imagining new video games from scratch. Cook calls the machine Angelina, a recursive acronym that stands for "A Novel Game-Evolving Labrat I've Named Angelina" (a joke that Cook says got old pretty quickly). Since its earliest form, in 2011, it has created hundreds of experimental video games, received acclaim in an international game-making competition, and had its work featured in a New York gallery exhibit. Game-making algorithms are almost as old as video games, but their use has typically been limited to generating terrain and other simple digital art. The next frontier is using increasingly sophisticated machine-learning techniques to design entirely new kinds of games that have, to date, evaded the human imagination.
Nigel Toon, the cofounder and CEO of Graphcore, a semiconductor startup based in the U.K., recalls that only a couple of years ago many venture capitalists viewed the idea of investing in semiconductor chips as something of joke. "You'd take an idea to a meeting," he says, "and many of the partners would roll about on the floor laughing." Now some chip entrepreneurs are getting a very different reception. Instead of rolling on the floor, investors are rolling out their checkbooks. Venture capitalists have good reason to be wary of silicon, even though it gave Silicon Valley its name.
Artificial intelligence might just spawn a whole new style trend: call it "predictive fashion." In a paper published on the ArXiv, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and Adobe have outlined a way for AI to not only learn a person's style but create computer-generated images of items that match that style. The system could let retailers create personalized pieces of clothing, or could even be used to help predict broader fashion trends. First, the researchers trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) to learn and classify a user's preferences for certain items, using purchase data scraped from Amazon in six categories: shoes, tops, and pants for both women and men. This type of recommender model is common in the online retail world, usually showing up in an "Other items you might like" area at the bottom of a page.
On the third floor of a shopping mall in the heart of Shanghai last week, Xiaolan He, a woman in her 50s, took an olive-green down jacket to a fitting room. To her surprise, she found a screen about the size of a large poster on the wall. It recognized the item of clothing in her hands through a tiny sensor embedded in the garment, and showed several options for matching items that she could flip through like a photo album. The screen, and the system that powers it, make up FashionAI--which essentially became He's personal stylist. FashionAI received its first big wave of customers on Saturday during Singles' Day, a Chinese shopping festival started by Alibaba in 2009 and held on November 11 each year.
Alibaba set a new Singles' Day record this Saturday by selling a staggering $25 billion worth of goods. The company also quietly tested a technology that could help it reinvent retail using artificial intelligence. On the third floor of a shopping mall in the heart of Shanghai last week, Xiaolan He, a woman in her 50s, took an olive green, down jacket to a fitting room. To her surprise, she found a screen about the size of a large poster on the wall. It recognized the item of clothing in her hands through a tiny sensor embedded in the garment, and showed several options for matching items that she could flip through like a photo album.