I was in my 5and year when our principal announced in class that starting this academic year, we were going to have a brand new subject called “Computer Basics”. We were very excited about this new development and then started the waiting period for the following Wednesday, as these sessions were supposed to take place every Wednesday. The wait was finally over in the week in a row when we saw this TV-like thing with a small typewriter-like device attached. We were all impressed with the new addition to our program. Then there were the days of sketching and painting on the computer screen, playing “Mario” (our favorite part of computer lessons), and learning COBOL (the most boring language course ). Time has passed and we are now in 2021, where computers are no longer a fancy name. Instead, we have advanced versions of them in the form of robots and artificial intelligence techniques. From the days when kids played in the mud and grass, we’re in a technologically advanced era where a newborn comes with an iPad in their hand (it might seem like a bit of a stretch, but looking at my 3 years using iPhones and tablets like he’s been using it for years, I can’t help but make this comparison of newborns dating iPads). Also, from a time when we would occasionally visit construction sites to observe the progress of an apartment for which we had paid an advance, we have come to a point where we can see what our future home will look like, even before its construction… thanks to VR technologies. This blog is Lehman’s take on how a few popular AI techniques changed the way we see the world a decade ago.
The diagram below is Gartner’s Hype Cycle which helps identify emerging trends in technology.
AI & robotics
Well, that’s where the AI comes in. AI in its truest sense allows machines to learn from experience, assimilate new input, and function like humans. It relies heavily on the process of deep learning and natural language processing. While the global robotics industry predicts $80 billion in growth by 2024, much of that is expected to be driven by AI. The modern version of AI can be seen all around us in the form of iPhone “Siri”, Amazon’s “Alexa”, “Cortana” etc. but that’s not just the whole story. The term “artificial intelligence” was coined in 1956 and long before the modern version of AI existed, the US Department of Defense used the technology to mimic human reasoning by training computers in the 1960s.
While all of these definitions and explanations may still seem confusing, for an Indian, more specifically for any “Fan of Rajnikanth”, I will cite this particular example. There was this hit movie called “Enthiran”, nicknamed in Hindi as “Robot”, which beautifully told about the application of AI. While we all thoroughly enjoyed the movie and it was a box office blockbuster because of that, I don’t know how many of us thought about how the storyline emerged. It shows the character Chitti transforming into a humanoid from a normal robot – this is how neural thinking paved the way for a modern version of AI, where we see “human-like machines “.
Many of us may have read the news in October 2017 about “Sophia being the first humanoid to be granted citizenship of a country”. Another example of AI is Sophia, the humanoid who was granted citizenship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
While many may argue about the ethics and legality of machines and robots replacing humans, it continues to grow and will continue to do so. AI is everywhere and in the form of emerging trends such as AI-enabled chatbots, predictive analytics, real-time AI-enabled marketing devices, AI-enabled customer support, etc
Big data analytics
There are many companies that think data is power. And this is where the application of Big Data comes in. Big Data, as the name suggests, is all about collecting all the data flowing into the business and extracting meaningful values from it by applying certain analytical tools. Although many talk about it as a recent trend, what I discovered after going through Gartner’s Hype Cycle is that it’s already a long story that will soon die. An entrepreneur friend of mine, who is now based in the US, was a normal engineering graduate with lots of dreams when I first met him in 2015. Within a year, after 23 failed products, he developed with his four engineering friends a product called “Vibe” under the banner of his start-up, which was then called “Profoundis”. It was the first Big Data product I heard of because the concept was not very familiar to me at the time. It was a product that assimilated research data from its client companies and, using certain analytics tools, provided them with meaningful marketing insights and competitor tracking. It was a life-changing product and their company became the very first start-up in Kerala to be acquired by an American tech giant. Almost 5 years later, this is no longer an emerging trend.
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
Many of us, especially those who have recently owned an apartment or are looking for one, might be able to relate to the image above. Nowadays, even before the construction is completed, builders give the owner an idea of how the interior of the apartment will look. All you have to do is don’t wear a sight like device and look through it and you can see your dream home before it’s even built.
Some of us use or may have heard of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and other similar headsets, which are opaque, but will fill our view of a virtual world when turned on. These two are the actual application of the concept called “virtual reality (VR)”. Virtual reality is a full immersion process, where you close your vision to the physical world and look at a virtual world.
Whereas Augmented Reality (AR) apps only appear on your tablet or phone screen and project images in a limited area in front of your eyes, unlike virtual reality. Pokemon Go game, which is very popular these days and where “Pokemon” are seen surfing on the surface of the phone is an AR application.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are emerging as trends in recent times and are widely used in many fields due to their ability to influence the human brain by providing an artificial view of the environment. AR & VR are increasingly enhanced with AI, in training and education, consumer entertainment, vehicle design, mobile apps, shopping channels, etc.
IoT (Internet of Things)
IoT is about connecting digital machines and computing devices through a network where they can transmit data and signals without human interference. When we see TV commercials that say you can turn on your air conditioner or TV or other similar household appliances using your cell phone, you might think for a moment how is that possible. This is what the application of IoT is. If you went out without turning off the oven, you don’t need to rush to turn it off because there is this concept called IoT that will help you do that while driving a car. Now companies no longer operate on the concept of product, but it is a service, a service all around. The IoT has pushed businesses towards a service-driven market to unlock customer values. The IoT has shifted the paradigm from reactive maintenance to preventive maintenance, which has significantly reduced costs, not only for end customers, but also for companies that are building a satisfied customer base. Blockchain, SaaS, IoT security, data analytics are all emerging trends in IoT. And the most popular example for that, which almost every one of us could relate to, is “Alexa”.
With the advancements in technology and the shift of the world to a tech-driven space, AI trends will continue to emerge at an endless rate. But whether this shift from reality to more virtual realities will pay off, only time will tell.
Disclaimer: I am not against the arrival of technology in our daily lives, the only point is that it should not consume the small piece of happiness of life by making life give way only to virtual realities.