What Ever Happened to Artificial Intelligence?

August 13, 2010
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MH900427654 150x150 photo (unconventional uses)

MH900427654 150x150 photo (unconventional uses)

According to predictions from the mid-twentieth century . . . we should all have household robots by now, and they should be able to perform very sophisticated tasks with little guidance (Roomba doesn’t count).  In fact, if we look at influential science fiction flicks of the 1980s, like Blade Runner and The Terminator, it seems that artificial intelligences–better known as AIs–are way behind in their projection to take over the world. 

So as it turns out, humans still have to do their own chores in 2010.  And their own thinking.  But there is actually more AI in our lives than we usually notice.  From sophisticated search engines to on-demand data analytics, most of us regularly use some version of machine-generated “thinking” to accomplish routine activities.  And that’s not even counting the computer chips that let our cars ask for an oil change.

But the quest is on to take AI even further into our lives.  Stories about AI research at Google have become routine, and it’s no secret that building the smartest machine has become a serious quest both for the “household name” companies and for start-ups we’ve never heard of.  Meanwhile, websites like Singularity Hub track “Robots, Genetics, AI, Longevity, Singularity” with stories about “The Next Generation in Human Computer Interfaces” and “Three Ground-breaking Miniature Biosensors to Change World Medicine.”  AI has also found a home in gaming, as you can see from the community at AIGameDev.

As for robots–PC World recently asked:  Has the Robot’s Day Finally Arrived? And the answer is something like “yes.”  There are cute robots in Japan, defense robots in South Korea, and robots in classrooms all over the U.S., where robotics programs and competitions are used to encourage interest in science and engineering.  NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project offers a central connection to events such as the Global Conference on Educational Robotics and the Indiana Robotics Invitational.  (Curious?  Watch archived highlights of the most recent IRI competition.)

So even though Artificial Intelligence has not developed as rapidly as some might have imagined—there’s a lot more going on than some might think!  To catch some glimpses of the extreme edge, pay a virtual visit to The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Cynthia Giles
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clip Art