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Ben Reid

Tech researchers on the cusp of an evolution with machines

The world’s tech experts are on the verge of seeing a major shift in relationships between people and machines, according to a key speaker heading to AI Day in Auckland on March 28.

IBM Distinguished Designer Adam Cutler says what interests him the most is the connection between people and machines.

“In the past, we’ve communicated with computers on their terms. We’re now on the cusp of an evolution in these relationships, because these machines aren’t programmed; they’re taught. Artificial Intelligence can understand, reason, learn and interact – these are the building blocks of what a machine needs to form a true relationship with a human.

“We need to ask ourselves about the kind of relationships we want to have with machines. My job isn’t about designing for the technology, it’s about designing for humans. We need to understand ourselves in entirely new ways to get the most out of these relationships.

“New advances in AI will continue to allow businesses to add emotional intelligence to their chatbots and avatars, with cognitive computing capabilities that can derive information about users’ intentions through the words they use.

“AI promises a new level of collaboration between people and machines and this will only augment and expand human intelligence.

“There is no question AI will inspire significant shifts in our workforce, creating entirely new types of work, occupations and opportunities. We’ve already seen instances where professionals –chemists, researchers, doctors, financial analysts –are finding AI technologies are helping them immensely in doing their jobs better.

“Our IBM research labs in Melbourne have been working with a New Zealand company, MoleMap, to explore how artificial intelligence can help clinicians distinguish between normal moles and potentially cancerous melanoma. With dermatologists in short supply, the system can provide an important screening process, and has published results with around 96 percent accuracy.”

Cutler says the future of technology is rooted in artificial intelligence. In the next three to five years, the world will see advancements that crack the human nature of communication.

“IBM is also further developing Watson’s ability to understand different vocalizations of words and how that reinforces a person’s emotional meaning.

“We’re certainly seeing instances of physical robots as well, deployed in a customer service capacity, such as Connie, a Watson-enabled robot concierge introduced at Hilton worldwide hotels.

“Whether it’s chatbots or avatars or something else, the underlying artificial intelligence platform is proliferating. Indeed, we believe that through our clients and ecosystem partners, Watson now touches more than one billion people each year.”

Cutler says with AI, organisations now have the ability to transform vast amounts of complex, unstructured information into actionable insights.

As a result, the AI market is expected to grow from US$8 billion in 2016, to $47 billion by 2020, as systems that learn and reason are applied in both commercial and consumer settings.

AI Day is being organised by NewZealand.AI and the AI Forum NZ, which is part of the NZTech Alliance, bringing together 14 national tech communities, more than 500 organisations and more than 100,000 employees to help create a more prosperous New Zealand underpinned by technology.


For further information contact Make Lemonade NZ editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

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Ben Reid I head up the AI Forum of New Zealand - working to harness the power of AI to help bring about a prosperous and inclusive future for New Zealand and the world. The AI Forum NZ brings together technology firms, businesses, universities and the government to connect, promote and advance the national AI ecosystem.