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‘Artificial Intelligence yet to make its mark in India’

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By Nishant Arora

From taking care of businesses to fulfilling personal needs, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is very much a part of the daily lives of people across the globe with global technological giants judiciously utilizing its benefits. However, it has yet to make a mark in India.

When Amit Singhal, an India-born techie who joined Google nearly 15 years ago practically reigning at Google Search since then, decided to quit this month and hand the baton over to the head of the technology giant’s artificial intelligence (AI) chief, the message was clear: AI was the future that had arrived.

Amid all the brouhaha over machines acquiring near-human intelligence, is India ready to embrace the change?

“For the Indian market, we might see some serious AI in action around 2020, and by 2025, there should be considerable advancements,” Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst, Telecoms Practice, at market research and consulting firm CyberMedia Research (CMR), told reporters.

According to Thomas George, SBU Head of CMR, there were several studies projecting AI becoming mainstream within five years. “However, this appears possible only in the high-end segments in the advanced and developed markets and not in India,” he added.

According to a latest forecast by the research firm MarketsandMarkets, the AI market is estimated to reach $5 billion by 2020 globally. “The increasing use of machine learning technology in the advertising and media and finance sectors, and the growing demand for AI across diversified application areas are driving the growth of the AI market,” the findings showed.

In India, the top-notch technology companies are yet to make a substantial progress in the business of AI.

While Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has Ignio — a neural science-based automation platform that optimises IT operations, Infosys has recently launched AiKiDo project that will focus on AI, knowledge-based IT and design thinking to help enterprise clients.

Wipro, on the other hand, has an AI platform “Holmes”- a rich set of cognitive computing services for the development of digital virtual agents, cognitive process automation, visual computing applications, robotics and drones. To fulfill its AI dreams, Wipro recently acquired a strategic stake in Vicarious, an AI company based in San Francisco, California.

But this does not seem enough when it comes to the practical application of AI in the country on a large scale. “Although industry circles have been talking about AI for more than a decade, it is yet to make its mark in India,” George said.

Globally, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are leading the way when it comes to incorporating AI into the workplace — transforming the experience of “machine learning” via “deep neural networks” of hardware and software that nearly approximate neurons in the human brain.

“Machine intelligence is crucial to our search vision of building a truly intelligent assistant that connects our users to information and actions in the real world,” Google said in a statement recently.

John Giannandrea, who led Google’s machine learning efforts and is going to replace Singhal, is applying the technology to products such as image recognition for Google Photos search and the smart reply for Google Inbox.

In a cheer for the AI community, Google’s AlphaGo, a program of its artificial intelligence arm DeepMind, recently defeated the reigning human champion of Go – a complex Chinese board game that is considered the “quintessential unsolved problem” for machine intelligence.

At Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to focus on AI and is even thinking of a simple AI to run his home and workplace like the famous Jarvis character in the Hollywood movie “Iron Man”.

According to Chris Bishop, managing director at Microsoft Research, 2016 will be the year of AI. “During 2016, we will see the emergence of new silicon architectures that are tuned to the intensive workloads of machine learning, offering a major performance boost over GPUs (Graphics Processing Units),” he posted.

In his first “Ask Me Anything” session on the social networking website Reddit last year, famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said that we evolved to be smarter than our ape-like ancestors and scientist Albert Einstein was smarter than his parents.

“If they become that clever, then we may face an ‘intelligence explosion’, as machines develop the ability to engineer themselves to be far more intelligent,” he said in reply to a question on the discussion board.

That might eventually result in “machines whose intelligence exceeds ours by more than ours exceeds that of snails”, Hawking answered.

That may be a daunting task for people to absorb. But perhaps human intelligence will evolve to do just that. (IANS) (Image source: digitaltrends.com)

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Bakelite: The Revolutionary Invention of Leo Baekeland

Today marks the 108th anniversary of the day when bakelite was first patented.

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leo baekeland
Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863- 1944)

Bakelite! Ah, the pioneering invention that defined the modern plastic industry. The plastic which had once been the primary substance of manufactured everyday items which now line up the boastful shelves of antiquity collectors: chokers, lockets, fine jewelleries and watches, furniture and radios…

This is in remembrance of the pioneer of modern plastic- bakelite- and of the man behind this revolutionary invention.

In what would probably have been his late forties, Leo Hendrik Baekeland had a goal in his mind: to find a replacement for shellac. Made from the shells of Asian female lac beatles, shellac had its uses as a colourant, food glaze and wood finish. Chemists had already identified natural resins like shellac as polymers and had started experiments to form synthetic polymers. Encouraged by these advances, Baekeland began his own experiments by first combining phenol and formaldehyde to create a soluble shellac. He called it “Novolak”. Unfortunately, this first phenol- formaldehyde combination fluttered away without a trace, never finding popularity. However, it did leave Baekeland with valuable experience.

It was the second attempt that set the boulder rolling! This time Baekeland chose precision. Initiating a controlled reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, the Belgian chemist found himself witnessing the birth of the plastic he had so long waited for.

About a hundred- and eight years ago on this very day, Leo Hendrik Baekeland patented the first thermosetting plastic- bakelite!

invention of bakelite
The Bakelizer was a steam pressure vessel used to produce commercial quantities of Bakelite since 1909. Photo from Chemical Heritage Foundation in wikimedia commons.

The Belgian’s invention was an instant success. Bakelite took the plastic industries of the world by storm, finding its use in more than a thousand of items and accessories. From jewellery and fashion equipments including the choker, bakelite earrings and lockets to kitchenware like bakelite handles, knobs and utensils, the revolutionary new plastic went on to find crucial uses in the radio and automobile industries, which during that age were undergoing rapid growth.

Picture of a bakelite radio at the Bakelite Museum, Somerset, UK. Photo from wikimedia commons

However, the fame that bakelite had earned was not destined to last long. With the synthesis of new plastic formulas after the end of the Second World War, the demand for bakelite began to diminish. New plastics like ABS and Lexan began surfacing across the industrial world to overthrow the reign of Leo Baekeland’s groundbreaking invention.

A little over a hundred years on though, bakelite still shines on! Besides being a collector’s item in the modern world, it still exists in brotherhood with the likes of aluminium and steel to fill catalogues and portals that sell quality kitchenware to the masses. Clearly, it never left. It was an invention which had been wrought out by Baekeland; a pioneer which was here to stay.

 

– Twitter Handle: @QuillnQuire

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Indian Railways to use artificial intelligence

Earlier, railways used a manual maintenance system

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Railways to use AI
Artificial Intelligence will also reduce the probability of delays and accidents to a great extent. Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi. November 21, 2017:

Aiming to reduce the possibilities of signals failing, Indian Railways has undertaken remote condition monitoring of the system, a new approach for the national transporter, to predict failures through the effective use of Artificial Intelligence.

The Signalling system is vital for safe train operations and the railways completely depend on the health of its signalling assets along with real-time information.

Currently, the railways follow a manual maintenance system and adopt find-and-fix methods rather than predict-and-prevent approach.

“Now, we are introducing remote condition monitoring using non-intrusive sensors for continuous online monitoring of signals, track circuits, axle counters and their sub-systems of interlocking, power supply systems including the voltage and current levels, relays, timers,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the project.

The system entails the collection of inputs on a pre-determined interval and sending this to a central location.

As a result, any flaws or problems in the signalling system would be detected on a real-time basis and rectified to avoid possible delays and mishaps.

The failure of signals is one of the major reasons for train accidents and delays.

Currently, remote monitoring of signalling is operational in Britain.

The system envisages data transfer through a wireless medium (3G, 4G and high-speed mobile) and data based on these inputs will be utilised, with help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), for predictive and prescriptive Big Data analytics.

This will enable prediction of signalling asset failures, automated self-correction and informed decisions on intervention strategies, said the official.

The railways have decided that trial is taken up in two sections of Western Railway and South Western Railway at Ahmedabad-Vadodara and Bengaluru-Mysuru.

Depending on the feedback, the system would gradually be extended to other sections. (IANS)

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Stephen Hawking believes Technology could end Poverty and Disease, says Artificial Intelligence could be the Worst or Best things for Humanity

Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

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Stephen Hawking
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking delivers a video message during the inauguration of Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 6, 2017. (VOA)

Lisbon, November 7, 2017 : Technology can hopefully reverse some of the harm caused to the planet by industrialization and help end disease and poverty, but artificial intelligence (AI) needs to be controlled, physicist Stephen Hawking said on Monday.

Hawking, a British cosmologist who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease aged 21, said technology could transform every aspect of life but cautioned that artificial intelligence poses new challenges.

He said artificial intelligence and robots are already threatening millions of jobs — but this new revolution could be used to help society and for the good of the world such as alleviating poverty and disease.

“The rise of AI could be the worst or the best thing that has happened for humanity,” Stephen Hawking said via telepresence at opening night of the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon that is attended by about 60,000 people.

“We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management and prepare for its consequences well in advance.”

Hawking’s comments come during an escalating debate about the pro and cons of artificial intelligence, a term used to describe machines with a computer code that learns as it goes.

ALSO READ Humanity’s days are numbered, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc and rocket company SpaceX, has warned that AI is a threat to humankind’s existence.

But Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in a rare interview recently, told the WSJ Magazine that there was nothing to panic about.

Stephen Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

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“We need to take learning beyond a theoretical discussion of how AI should be, and take action to make sure we plan for how it can be,” said Stephen Hawking, who communicates via a cheek muscle linked to a sensor and computerized voice system.

“You all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big. We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting — if precarious — place to be and you are the pioneers,” he said. (VOA)