Artificial Intelligence Now Has a Voice, But Security Challenges Loom
Entrepreneur is on the ground at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Check back for highlights from the event as well as insights from thought leaders and innovators.
Amazon's Alexa, which provides an easy way to play music, turn on a light or order toiletries, is one of the first steps to artificial intelligence that can greatly benefit us in our day-to-day lives. But while Alexa may be a standout in AI, the technology isn’t alone. Just this year, Google's AlphaGo made history by defeating a master human player at the ancient game of Go, and Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his AI home assistant, Jarvis. However, the world of AI is still very new, with a lot of questions, concerns and unknowns remaining.
To get more insights into the AI field and where it is heading next, we reached out to Alex Capecelatro, founder and CEO of Josh.ai, which created a voice activated home-automation system. He will discuss AI during a panel discussion at CES.
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His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What's surprised you in the past year in the artificial intelligence field?
In terms of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT), we saw a massive adoption of personal assistants in the form of Amazon Echo and Google Home. Microsoft recently announced its hardware component for Cortana, and we expect to see Apple getting into this space as well. None of this technology would be possible without really accurate automatic speech recognition and sophisticated natural language processing. That said, the technology wouldn't matter if not for the massive adoption we've seen.
Personally, I've been surprised at how quickly consumers are adopting to this technology, but also surprised at how nascent the products tend to be.
We focus on the smart home, which is a massive opportunity and one that is growing quickly, yet the number of connected devices in an average household is still low and therefore an AI for the home is only as powerful as those devices are distributed.
There's also very little "learning" in the current marketplace. My company, Josh.ai, and others are working to change this, but the distinction between human-like and conscious is important and we're nowhere near conscious computing.
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What were the biggest trends? What do you anticipate for the next year?
Natural language processing for voice control and assistants has made the biggest impact this year. The necessary components -- high word accuracy, fast networks, cloud computing -- have finally progressed enough to come together to deliver a great user experience.
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Other technologies such as virtual reality, like Oculus, and augmented reality have started to take shape to get people excited about what's to come.
The rise of IoT in the home is nearly exponential, and we expect this to cause even more opportunities at the intersection of AI, machine learning and the physical set of devices we interact with.
From a voice perspective, we expect to see more options for a home AI assistant. We already have Amazon and Google, but Microsoft is working on something and Apple has been rumored as well. There may also be AI agnostic microphones -- mics that let you choose whichever AI you like (Alexa, Siri, Google, Cortana, etc.) -- to give consumers options. All this will help to advance the AI technology, enabling further options and functionality across applications.
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What challenges will the industry face?
As mass adoption grows, there will be security challenges. What if your window is open and someone outside yells at Alexa to unlock the door? How do we stop hackers from taking control of connected devices?
There's also a huge interoperability challenge in getting an operating system like Josh.ai to easily speak to everything around it. That said, a number of large companies and numerous startups alike are working on these challenges with some pretty innovative solutions.
How will it meet those challenges?
We will see third-party offerings step up to fill the gap, including software, services and a combination of the two. Security experts are helping to ensure a reliable and safe infrastructure. We believe locally hosted devices will challenge the cloud for the more secure applications where privacy is a concern, and hopefully some standard protocols will emerge to streamline the various communication channels currently diluting the space.
How do you convince people more advanced AI is a good thing?
To a certain extent, more intelligence is inevitable, and it's only a matter of figuring out how to accept and benefit from it. For example, Google anonymously monitors your email in order to deliver targeted ads. While this sounds like a huge invasion of privacy, and it probably is, it also has the potential of helping you remember an important birthday and deliver the perfect gift.
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In terms of what we're doing with Josh.ai, more advanced robotics, AI and connected devices will improve your quality of life, save energy and money, add a layer of privacy and protection (never leave a garage door open again) and help create wonderful environments with the right lighting and music to set the mood.
Anything else you would like to share about the future of AI? Anyone who's heard me speak this year has heard this quote: We tend to overestimate technological innovation in the next three years, largely due to consumer adoption, regulation and economies of scale, but we grossly underestimate what will happen in the next 10. In other words, expect the next few years to look surprisingly similar to what we see today, but as we approach 2025, the concepts behind autonomous driving, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and the smart home will seem like common sense.