Exploring the use of AI across industries
Our lives today are powered by digital technology. From Uber and Alexa to Google Maps and a plethora of online chatbots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a ubiquitous presence in our everyday man-machine interactions. So it’s only natural that every industry wants to adopt AI — whether to gain a competitive advantage or to stay relevant. For digital natives, however, the term AI is now passé and has evolved into what is currently being referred to as ‘Artificial Being’ (AB), or machines with consciousness imbued into them. This glimpse into the future, into a world populated by ‘Machina Sapiens’, has inspired many a writer, not to mention numerous big-screen blockbusters as well. What this means is that most of us know that AI is the force behind Natural Language Processing (NLP), face and voice recognition, email spam filters, and smart online assistants. But there are many more unique ways in which AI works behind the scenes, especially in these industries:
By now, we’re all familiar with ‘smart’ machines that can sort fresh produce and make large-scale food production easier. But there’s a new way to use it that goes well beyond automation — computer-generated beer! A London-based company has used AI to create four varieties of bottled conditioned beer: golden, amber, pale, and black. Customers can use the website’s online feedback system to help continuously improve the recipe — making for a brew that gets better and better with each batch. And they’re not the only company; Carlsberg has partnered with Microsoft to create ‘The Beer Fingerprinting Project’, a way to develop other yeast varieties for new and alcohol-free beers — definitely not a pint-sized achievement!
AI is also finding its place in fast food. Caliburger, a hamburger restaurant, uses an AI-powered robot to flip and assemble burgers. Flippy the bot was designed by Miso Robotics to flip burgers, grill them, and even adaptively learn many of a kitchen’s routine and dirty activities. So, the next time you eat a burger, you don’t have to worry about whether the chef washed his hands or was wearing a hairnet in the kitchen.
Environment and Wildlife
With rising concerns about the environment and pollution, an issue that is commonly raised is that of the dwindling number of honeybees. These little insects play a big role in pollination, and their demise greatly affects the ecosystem. While there are efforts to increase their population and preserve their habitat, technology has stepped in to make things a little easier in the meantime. ‘Robot bees’ mimic their natural counterparts and pollinate plants using AI, GPS, and high-resolution cameras — a ‘smart’ solution to a worldwide problem.
Another area where AI shines is in the protection and monitoring of natural ecosystems. Applications like eBirds and iNaturalists have given these areas a shot in the arm by making it easier to keep track of species and migration patterns. In fact, Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park uses AI to predict poaching threat levels, making it far easier to safeguard wildlife. Thus, technology like this makes it much easier to man vast national parks, or for rangers to efficiently patrol parks.
AI today isn’t just limited to repetitive tasks — it finds use in creative fields too. Musical AI is reshaping the music industry by using technology as a co-creator; acting as a partner rather than a threat. It can help artists with composition, streaming, and even monetization. Big players like Google have already jumped on the bandwagon with apps like AI Duet, which helps pianists compose their own duets. It interactively responds to the pianist’s notes with its own melody. Another example is Popgun’s ALICE, created in Australia. ALICE predicts, accompanies, and improvises compositions using deep learning and neural networks. And then there are platforms like Amper that allow users to adjust settings for mood, style, and duration to come up with original compositions, whether they are novices or professionals. It isn’t just traditional music, even rap has its own app — DeepBeat.
AI also makes producing and mastering music a lot easier. With platforms like CloudBounce and LandR bringing down the prohibitive costs of music production, individual artists can now easily thrive. And for those who aren’t composing and are just listening, AI is mostly seen and felt through services like Spotify and Pandora. These platforms use technology to generate playlists that are customized to each user based on previous listening patterns, making for a truly personalized experience.
The word farming seems synonymous with ‘old-school’, but this is actually far from the truth in the modern world. In fact, big data is big business in the world of agriculture. Companies are already contemplating creating chatbots for farmers that, like Alexa, can troubleshoot problems using deep learning. Machine-driven algorithms can often seem like they have an eye in the sky and feet on the soil, making them any farmer’s perfect companion. The combination of big data and machine learning can be used to streamline multiple processes — from analysis and seeding to variable rate planting and harvesting — giving farmers the tools to stay ahead of the curve.
One Berlin-based agricultural tech startup, PEAT, has developed Plantix — a deep learning algorithm-based application that identifies defects and nutrient deficiencies in the soil. And this is just one of the many algorithms being used in the world of farming. Sophisticated and directed movements fueled by ‘machine vision’ and ‘sensor fusion’ can mimic trained pickers, thereby helping automate harvesting and cutting down labor costs. One well-known example of this technology is Harvest Croo’s ‘berry picker’. Technology like this is step towards a completely automated farming experience. What this means is that, in a primarily agriculture-based economy like India, the use of digital agriculture could herald an AI-powered green revolution.
Today, the world as a whole faces many issues — both man-made and natural. Atypical deployments of AI that tackle typical problems can help simplify the answers to these challenges. However, nothing is entirely positive or negative. While some believe that it will soon become legal to marry a robot, experts like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have signed an open letter calling for research on the societal impacts of AI. They urge researchers not to create something that cannot be controlled. For now, we can enjoy the benefits of the Cortanas, Siris, and Alexas in our lives while we brace ourselves for an era of unimagined innovation and social restructuring — all courtesy AI!