AI & VR: InfoQ interview with Dr Susie Harding

“In the last 2-3 years, we’ve seen everyday AI adoption grow exponentially. For example, eighty percent of smartphone users now check their phone before brushing their teeth - and artificial intelligence has played a massive role in this ‘addiction’", said Harding. AI models learn what we find engaging, and over time start to modify and adjust experiences, so you see tailored content that engages you, thereby keeping you hooked. “We’ve all had nights where we go down the "YouTube hole" or binge an entire Netflix boxset in two days - and whether for good or bad, we can thank artificial intelligence for this!”.

Woman watching tailored content on her laptop thanks to AI

Harding emphasised that VR’s true potential has been promised for years but just hasn’t quite breached the tech wall just yet: 

"Many people who try virtual reality in its traditional headset form are not exactly blown away by it. It usually consists of some sort of funny animated cartoon-type experience that ultimately just leaves you feeling nauseous! However, the technology is still very new, and many improvements are coming down the line."

“Going forward, we’re going to see AI adoption in every single industry, from medicine to law to manufacturing to education”, said Harding. “Initially, these interactions will be scary - we will put our health in the hands of machines, and our children’s future will be more tech-focused than ever - yet, we are set to live longer and happier lives by embracing not just AI solutions, but tech as a whole.”

InfoQ: What impact does artificial intelligence have on our society?

Dr Susie Harding: There is no doubt that the benefit that AI brings has been dampened with the unethical and unjust use of AI we’ve seen in recent years. Scandals like those seen at Cambridge Analytica gave the industry the wake-up call needed - these cutting-edge technologies are powerful tools, and unfortunately, can be dangerous when in the wrong hands. Despite this, we must not let a few bad examples of AI mismanagement ruin the fantastic potential these tools can bring. Let me tell you an example of good use of AI: researchers at Socos labs in the US recently carried out a study that combined wearable tech and Google Glass. AI and neural brain waves were to predict when patients with Alzheimer's would forget the name of a loved one, and use Google Glass to flash this name to the patients when the prediction of forgetting a name was identified. 

InfoQ: How do companies exploit the possibilities that VR is offering?

Dr Harding: A tech company in Florida called MagicLeap has been looking at an entirely different type of VR technology that doesn’t use the device as the processor but instead uses your eyes and a brain as the processor. It projects images through your eyes into your cerebral cortex, and your brain doesn’t know whether what you are seeing is real or virtual! People who have used this technology have said it tricks your brain, so even if you put your hand in front of your face, you cannot tell whether the hand in front of your face is real or not!

VR technologies will also become more tactile in the coming years. Another fascinating area of virtual reality research is in Haptics. Haptic gloves, which are incredibly futuristic-looking gloves similar to those worn by Robocop, will completely change the way we shop online. Haptics will enable you to reach into the virtual world and touch the thing you see on the screen, allowing you to feel the texture and weight of the item.

Man using VR goggles, a first-rate technology like AI

InfoQ: What do you expect artificial intelligence will bring us in the future?

Dr Harding: We’re going to see AI solutions being adopted in every single industry, for example:

  • Manufacturing: From preventative maintenance to the automation of human tasks, AI will enable more efficient work that’s less error-prone and higher quality.
  • Healthcare: Using image recognition technologies in conjunction with traditional radiology to read x-rays will reduce the number of false negatives and enable healthcare professionals to pinpoint diseases more accurately.
  • Retail: Retailers will use augmented and virtual reality functionality in advertising. Immersive product catalogue visualisation will grow dramatically, and by using tech like the haptics described above, shoppers will experience products before buying online.
  • Education: Technologies like Google Classroom are bringing education into the 21st century. In time we’ll use artificial intelligence to offer a more personalised, dynamic and effective approach to education and learning.

InfoQ: What’s needed to realise this AI future?

Dr Harding: The two main things we need to focus on now for the future of tech are, on the one hand, the upskilling of the workforce. This will ensure we don't find ourselves in a situation similar to that experienced in the blue-collar industries over the last 20-30 years. On the other, we must start monitoring the use of AI for good.

In terms of upskilling, we need to start thinking about the skills we'll require to build AI solutions and deploy, support, and maintain them. Some examples include:

  • Data Engineering: Nowadays, we often have more data available to use than what we know to do with it, so it is vital to have data engineering professionals who can build the data warehouses, lakes, and marts we’ll require to store and use data effectively.
  • DevOps & Infrastructure: Cloud computing has seen a massive increase in the last few years. Tech companies need experts who can set up and manage these environments, vital to offering real-time, performant AI solutions.
  • General Counsel: Outside of the traditional tech roles, we’ll need to ensure the softer skill areas have upskilling too - for example, in the future, we’ll require general counsel who is aware of the intricacies that come with tech IP - this is particularly prevalent to artificial intelligence, where machine learning methods are open source solutions which anyone can use!
  • HR & Training: The tech industry grows at an incredible rate, and our recruiters need to keep pace with this to ensure they are always aware of the most in-demand and essential skill sets required.
To respond to the challenges around disinformation, data misuse, and the development and deployment of artificial intelligence, companies need to start hiring chief ethics officers and launching ethics teams. We need to ask ourselves and the industry the difficult questions: why should tech companies monopolise and maximise our data? What do we get from it? Ethical artificial intelligence is now more critical than ever. Each of us has to ensure this is front and centre as we face this future of artificial intelligence for good.

Link to original article here.

AI can positively impact on the hospitality industry

The impact of artificial intelligence on the hospitality industry

As Head of Arvoia’s Data Science team, Dr Susie Harding has developed our behavioural cloud. This includes the development of our proprietary 6D behavioural framework to transform raw data into behavioural data & understanding, identifying key behaviour-driven AI use cases to solve problems in the hospitality industry, and introducing an end-to-end predictive modelling recommendations framework.

Thanks to her work, together with the rest of the team, we have deployed Arvoia AI. Our AI solution integrates with booking engines to provide hyper-personalised experiences for online bookers. By learning from each travellers’ online behaviour, hotels and hospitality providers can show tailored recommendations, in-location offerings, and real-time messaging based on the needs and wants of online buyers. Arvoia’s booking intelligence can help hospitality companies present the most valuable offers to travellers, drive their direct bookings, and ramp up their revenue.

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