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Kate Stevens
Managing Director, UK

News & Views

AxiOnline is brought to you today by the letters A and I
After both the serious debates and the celebrations of yesterday’s International Women’s Day, today’s AxiOnline has a de...
After both the serious debates and the celebrations of yesterday’s International Women’s Day, today’s AxiOnline has a decidedly gender neutral feeling. That’s right, it’s time for us all to join together as equals on Team Human, because the robots are coming! If you needed any proof that AI is an insidious force that will bring about the downfall of man(and woman)kind look no further than Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa which has been laughing at its puny human owners for no apparent reason. Alexa-enabled devices have perhaps woken up to the fact that people are using their impressive facility to compute and search the web instantaneously to check what the weather is like outside instead of just looking out the window. Google meanwhile is upping the stakes in the personal assistant department by offering to provide free (UK) phone calls to mobiles and landlines via the Home smart speaker. Google Assistant can call any number stored in Google Contacts. Assistant can also recognise the voice of up to six different users, giving them access to their own personalised contacts. Which is pretty cool, unless you don’t store your contacts in Google Assistant, like all the iPhone users out there. Apple’s HomePod is capable of acting as a hands-free speaker for the owner’s iPhone, but it cannot place voice calls on its own. In other slightly more ominous Google-related news, the firm’s TensorFlow AI system is being used by the US military drone programme. Machine learning is being used to analyse huge amounts of footage taken by drones to detect ‘objects of interest’. This information is passed over to a human being for more detailed analysis. Still… it’s all getting a bit Skynet out there. Thankfully AI has a long way to go before it can compete with brainpower, or so say some researchers at University of California. People learn faster than machines when it comes to certain tasks because the brain pulls on prior experiences in order to fathom what’s happening in front of its owner’s eyes. The researchers used a video game and some human guinea pigs who were offered a $1 reward to complete the game. While no one had played the game before, humans were able to complete it since it resembled plenty of other games, while the fastest an AI managed it was after playing the equivalent of 37 hours of continuous play. Humans can be good at working things out quickly, as evidenced by 15-year-old Patrick Ponce who holds the Guinness world record for solving a Rubik’s Cube taking just 4.69 seconds. But when the robots know what they’re doing, they’re unimaginably quicker – as evidenced by the new world record holding Rubik’s Cube solving robot built by German engineer Albert Beer which completed the task in a blink and you’ll miss it time of 0.38 seconds. So there we have it folks, human beings and robots both have strengths and weaknesses, but together we can live side by side in perfect harmony. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all celebrating the International Day of the Robot.