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VoiceTech: talk to me | TechTalk Thursday

AI Voice technology is transforming our world 

Life imitates art

Science fiction has an uncanny ability to predict the future. Three decades ago, David Hasselhoff—playing Michael Knight on the TV show Knight Rider, fought crime with his trusty sidekick, KITT, an artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car. KITT, voiced by the actor William Daniels, would take verbal commands from Knight, and execute on them—whether that was using deflective laser shields against an enemy, or accelerating the car to get out of a bad situation just in the nick of time.
Knight Rider

We don’t yet have crime-fighting voice-controlled cars, but we are at a turning point, intelligent, AI voice-powered software, apps and digital devices that can learn and adapt to your needs are transforming how we engage and live in the digital world.

How did we get here? 

When you think about the technological advances just in the last 20 to 30 years, it's mind-boggling. The Internet. Music in your pocket. Mobile applications. Smartphones. Siri and Alexa It's amazing how fast it has happened.
AI voice-powered software, apps and digital devices
Put simply, voice recognition is software and hardware combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has the ability to interpret the human voice, which then allows the user to perform a command, receive the answer to a question, operate a device, or write without the need for a keyboard.

The possibilities truly are endless. It's incredibly fascinating to think of the many ways AI voice technology will change our daily lives. 

Research firm Gartner, estimates that over 30% of interactions with technology 
are happening through voice conversation.

Voice is more than just a helpful feature

It is a natural means of interaction and the simplest way to engage users. By being able to simply talk to computers and devices, voice is a more intuitive and easy way to transform the way we interact with not just traditional technology like digital assistants but also kitchen appliances, our cars and, most importantly, the way we communicate with other people. It will be the ubiquitous operating system and platform on which all functions will be executed.

The next frontier of voice software can listen and speak. Imagine software listening to you speak, monitoring the pace, tone and inflections of your voice and then being able to synthetically replicate your speech to an uncanny point of resemblance.

However, like any great technology, there can be a dark, malicious side that we need to pay attention to. With the current state of voice-operated tech, there is already a very clear and present danger. These systems, like all software, are not 100% foolproof, hack-proof or reliable. In every assessment of technology build and deployment, careful thinking about user scenarios and unintended consequences will matter.

AI voice driven conversational experiences has reached the point where we can use machine capabilities to understand and produce human language through a process called conversational AI
AI-driven conversational experiences 
Conversational AI capabilities can emulate many of the things humans do when we’re having a conversation, reading or writing.

While users may differ in their level of technical sophistication, nearly everyone’s mastered human language. Human-computer interactions are increasingly being realized as conversations; Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon will make the conversational AI the main gateway to communicate with the customer. In fact, in a recent survey, nine out of 10 people said they prefer messaging directly with a brand.

Personal home health robot

It’s like having your very own healthcare companion for your home.
Using the latest in voice and facial recognition technologies, Pillo can hear, see and understand you. This enables him to adapt his functionalities to serve your specific needs, answer your health and wellness questions, connect you directly with healthcare professionals, and securely manage your vitamins and medication, storing, dispensing, and even ordering refills when you need them. 

Pillo is intelligent, so his functionalities will grow as he learns about you and your family. Pillo securely stores up to four week's worth of vitamins and medications in tamper proof containers within the device. And with his sophisticated identity recognition technologies, Pillo makes sure that medications are dispensed for the right user at the right time, every time.  Pillo is expected to ship in Q4 2018. 

Automatically assess your mood

The Cogito Companion app can automatically assess your mood:  With Companion, you can record audio diaries that analyze how you speak (not what you say) to give you real-time feedback on your mood. You can view your mood scores over time to see how they’ve changed, or stabilized.

Cogito’s technology centers around an artificial intelligence software that analyzes voice inflection and seeks to make a link between those tiny changes and potential social cues.
analyzes how you speak (not what you say)
Cogito is the brainchild of MIT professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland, who has been studying the ability of machines to interpret social signals in our communications for about 20 years.

His team developed an artificial intelligence platform and behavioral models to interpret human communication and detect psychological states automatically

By using Companion you can work on improving your life through insightful feedback on your behaviors. Companion lets you see how different behaviors have changed over a week, a month, and a year.

Health care professionals are finding the technology particularly useful in monitoring patients. - The app monitors a patient’s phone for both active and passive behavior signals.  That means the app can tell if a patient hasn’t left his home for several days or indicate if the patient hasn’t texted or spoken on the phone.  Cogito and teamed up with several health care systems. The companies have found the app particularly helpful for veterans.

At the present time, Cogito Companion is available only in the United States by invitation. 

AI Helps Identify People at Risk for Suicide - WSJ

In late January, a 60-year-old woman in northern Argentina posted on Facebook : 
“This can’t go on. From here I say goodbye.”
  • Within three hours, a medical team reached the woman and saved her life—thanks in part to advances in artificial intelligence.
  • The post caught the attention of Facebook’s AI system, which is programmed to spot potential suicidal language.
  • The system decided it was an emergency and passed it along to moderators for review, who then alerted authorities in Buenos Aires. Before long, first responders were on the scene. 

Facebook has been working on suicide prevention for more than 10 years, but faced criticism last year for not doing enough after several users took their own lives and live-streamed the process. In November 2017, Facebook said that it had started to use AI to analyze people’s posts and live streams in an effort to detect suicidal thoughts, and that its AI system now prioritizes particularly dangerous and urgent reports so that they are more quickly addressed by moderators. 

The company says that over a month in the fall of 2017, its AI system alerted first responders to intervene in 100 cases of potential self-harm.

Machines would not replace humans making diagnoses about suicidal behavior. But these tools—most of which are still experimental—could eventually help clinicians screen patients more quickly and accurately, perhaps even while a doctor is still doing an interview.

Using technology to detect suicidal behavior is part of a larger effort to use AI to discover and treat a range of mental-health issues including depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

But suicide-detection research—in the public and private sectors—is further along than other mental-health efforts. In part, that’s because suicide is on the rise, particularly among teenagers.

In 2006, one person in the U.S. committed suicide every 16 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A decade later, it was every 12 minutes. Plus, traditional ways of predicting suicide have been found lacking. In fact, a recent meta-analysis by Florida State University researchers and others, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, found that the traditional approach of predicting suicide, which includes doctors’ assessments, was only slightly better than random guessing.

By contrast, early tests of AI have shown markedly better results. A follow-up study by several of the same researchers, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science last year, used AI to analyze the medical records of nearly 16,000 general hospital patients in Tennessee. The algorithms identified common traits among suicidal patients—such as a history of using antidepressants and injuries with firearms—and could predict with 80% to 90% accuracy whether someone would attempt suicide in the next two years.

But as companies get involved in the suicide-prevention efforts, they face a host of ethical questions. For one, there’s transparency: Technology firms already have to deal with concerns about the kinds of information they collect from users and what they do with it, and those debates will likely become even more heated as they handle sensitive mental-health information.

Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The Government of Canada is funding a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy for research and talent that will cement Canada's position as a world leader in AI. The $125 million strategy will attract and retain top academic talent in Canada.

"The Canadian government clearly recognizes the importance of artificial intelligence as a platform technology that cuts across many areas of innovation today," says Dr. Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR. "This investment in deep AI builds on Canada's strength as a pioneer in AI research and will provide a strong foundation for Canada to build on its global leadership in this important and exciting field." 

Artificial intelligence is a burgeoning area of research with implications for everything from better medical diagnoses to self-driving cars. The market for artificial intelligence-related products is predicted to reach $47 billion in 2020, and the field has attracted significant investment from Google, Facebook, Baidu and other major technology players.

By: Stewart Irvine

@stewarteirvine, #stewartirvine , techtalk983


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