Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Microsoft aims to bring AI into mainstream


Actors work in a mock construction scenario during a demonstration of Microsoft Corp artificial intelligence (AI) for workplace safety at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Microsoft Corp chief executive Satya Nadella on Wednesday said that tech developers have a responsibility to prevent a dystopian 1984 future as the US technology titan unveiled a fresh initiative to bring artificial intelligence (AI) into the mainstream.

At the start of its annual Build Conference, Microsoft sought to showcase applications with artificial intelligence that could tap into services in the Internet “cloud” and even take advantage of computing power in nearby machines.

Nadella spent time on stage at the Seattle conference stressing a need to build trust in technology, saying new applications must avoid dystopian futures feared by some.

Nadella’s presentation included images from George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to underscore the issue of responsibility of those creating new technologies.

“What Orwell prophesied in 1984, where technology was being used to monitor, control, dictate, or what Huxley imagined we may do just by distracting ourselves without any meaning or purpose — neither of these futures is something that we want,” he said

“The future of computing is going to be defined by the choices that you as developers make and the impact of those choices on the world,” he said.

There is much discussion in the tech world about what AI will mean for society, especially since it is quickly driving change that could eliminate jobs, with applications such as self-driving trucks or “bots” that take over many skilled functions.

“What happens to lower-level, blue-collar jobs that might be impacted?” Gartner Inc research director of app design and development Jason Wong asked rhetorically.

“That is part of the dystopia that can occur because of the abruptness of AI; in less than a generation we will be seeing things like driverless cars,” he said.

Microsoft is infusing all of its products and services with AI, and enabling those who develop on its platform to imbue creations with customized capabilities, executive vice president of artificial intelligence and research Harry Shum said.

“We’ve been creating the building blocks for the current wave of AI breakthroughs for more than two decades,” Shum said.

Microsoft research has gone deep into areas, such as machine learning, speech recognition, and enabling machines to recognize what they “see.”

“Now, we’re in the unique position of being able to use those decades of research breakthroughs,” Shum said.

Microsoft rivals, including Inc, Apple Inc, Google and IBM Corp, have all been aggressively pursing the promise and potential of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence is getting a foothold in people’s homes, with personal assistants answering questions and controlling connected devices, such as appliances or light bulbs.

Digital assistants already boast features, such as reminding people of appointments entered into calendars and chiming in with advice to set out early if traffic is challenging.

Microsoft’s aim on Wednesday was on businesses and software developers, whether they be students building mobile games or professional technology teams.

The company is taking a unique approach by letting developers customize gesture commands, voice recognition and more, instead of making them conform to settings in “off-the-shelf” artificial intelligence, Moor Insights and Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead said.

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