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) …
In Silicon Valley, to make a device "smart" means to add internet connectivity, allowing it to collect, send, and receive data, often while learning and adapting to user preferences. The technology industry has invested wholesale in the idea that "smart" means better, and so we have smart speakers, smart thermometers, smart baby monitors, smart window shades, and smart sex toys, all perpetually collecting rich user data to send back to company servers. Soon enough, we'll have a smart city: Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet, is building one "from the internet up," with help from a series of private-public real-estate partnerships in the downtown Toronto neighborhood Quayside (pronounced Key-side). The project's 200-page wish list of features is astounding. The "vision document" imagines not only the revitalization of a 12-acre plot that has sat largely vacant since its heyday as an industrial port, but its transformation into a micro-city outfitted with smart technologies that will use data to disrupt everything from traffic congestion to health care, housing, zoning regulations, and greenhouse-gas emissions.
An ambitious smart-city project spearheaded by Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs has run into local resistance, causing delays. The backstory: Waterfront Toronto, a development agency founded by the Canadian government, partnered with the Google sister company in October 2017 to create a futuristic neighborhood on the Toronto waterfront. Sidewalk Labs plans to fill the 12-acre plot with driverless shuttle buses, garbage-toting robots, and other gadgets to show how emerging technologies can improve city life. The problem: Sidewalk Labs' connection to Google and vague descriptions of its business model alarmed privacy advocates and urban planners from the start. Local pushback has increased since, causing a key supporter to resign from the project and delaying the release of its final development plan to spring 2019.
The hexagonal slices of wood don't look like much. A few are studded with bright, white lights, right in the center, which is fun. And the way the hexagons, each the size of a manhole cover, have been bunched into clusters feels natural and sensible. Surely a Fibonacci sequence is hiding somewhere in there. What's important about these shapes is what they represent to Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, Waymo, and Loon.
If you didn't already know, Canada is becoming a major hub for AI research. Samsung has opened up an AI Centre (that's the Canadian spelling of Center) in Toronto. This is their second big lab in North America, with the other one being located near Google in Mountain View, California. This new location will help foster AI across a wide range of devices, including self-driving cars to smart appliances. What might be even more interesting is where Samsung is going to be located.
Google's parent company, Alphabet, has an offshoot called Sidewalk Labs tasked with improving urban living. The division gave birth to Coord, a spin-off which is launching a smart route planner today for people in New York City and Washington DC. The web app supports multiple modes of transportation -- bus, subway and bike rentals -- and will recommend different combinations based on live, street-level data. It's a unique blend -- other navigation apps don't include dockless bike sharing services such as Spin and Jump. That means you can quickly locate the nearest two-wheeler and judge whether it would be quicker to take the bus or tube.
QUAYSIDE, an area of flood-prone land stretching for 12 acres (4.8 hectares) on Toronto's eastern waterfront, is home to a vast, pothole-filled parking lot, low-slung buildings and huge soyabean silos--a crumbling vestige of the area's bygone days as an industrial port. Many consider it an eyesore but for Sidewalk Labs, an "urban innovation" subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet, it is an ideal location for the world's "first neighbourhood built from the internet up". Sidewalk Labs is working in partnership with Waterfront Toronto, an agency representing the federal, provincial and municipal governments that is responsible for developing the area, on a $50m project to overhaul Quayside. It aims to make it a "platform" for testing how emerging technologies might ameliorate urban problems such as pollution, traffic jams and a lack of affordable housing. Its innovations could be rolled out across an 800-acre expanse of the waterfront--an area as large as Venice.
On the Sidewalk Labs website is a 200-page document explaining its vision for a smart neighborhood in Toronto. It's packed with illustrations that show a warm, idyllic community full of grassy parks, modular buildings and underground tunnels with delivery robots and internet cabling inside. The text describes "a truly complete community" that's free of cars and committed to reducing its carbon footprint. Underpinning everything is a network of sensors that can monitor noise, traffic and pollution, collecting the troves of data required to understand and improve the city's design. Flipping through the pages, it's easy to see how the company -- an offshoot of Google parent Alphabet -- was chosen to revitalize the Lake Ontario waterfront.
On Toronto's waterfront, where the eastern part of the city meets Lake Ontario, is a patchwork of cement and dirt. It's home to plumbing and electrical supply shops, parking lots, winter boat storage, and a hulking silo built in 1943 to store soybeans--a relic of the area's history as a shipping port.
Every year since 2001 we've picked what we call the 10 Breakthrough Technologies. People often ask, what exactly do you mean by "breakthrough"? It's a reasonable question--some of our picks haven't yet reached widespread use, while others may be on the cusp of becoming commercially available. What we're really looking for is a technology, or perhaps even a collection of technologies, that will have a profound effect on our lives.