Everybody is talking about COVID-19 and as the crisis continues, education is adjusting to the new conditions through online programs. Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams are enabling this transition as people take conversations online in accordance with social distancing.

There is optimism about the pandemic subsiding as countries flatten the curve according to WHO. Artificial intelligence adoption is accelerating and COVID-19 outbreak could make the technology widespread as people experience its benefits in detecting infections and predicting the next pandemic.

The United Kingdom has played a role in the development of AI since the days of Alan Turing and the country continues to experience growth of tech start-ups in AI, block chain and IOT. Artificial intelligence is growing with scientific discoveries relying on AI for research, AI powered calling services and real-time noise suppression.

Mark Cuban believes that teaching children AI will educate them about the future of technology and its implications on business. Children need lessons on AI and exposing them according to Mark Cuban will reshape our future as new technologies such as machine learning become part of our lives.

Creating Successful AI Projects

When it comes to being competitive in today’s markets artificial intelligence is clearly a must-have weapon. But even for some of the world’s top companies implementing this technology has been challenging. Creating models, generating sufficient ROI, getting result-driven data, and finding the right talent have been the common issues faced by the companies.

Many AI projects fail because of it. Only about 35% of organizations succeed in getting models into production successfully- According to IDC.

Santiago Giraldo, Senior Product Marketing Manager of Data Engineering at Cloudera said, “Unlike traditional data analytics, machine learning (ML) models that power AI is not always going to offer clear-cut answers,” It is important to understand that every experiment is not going to drive ROI. A successful AI project¹ is built on top of many failed data science experiments. The approach of taking a portfolio to ML and AI enables greater longevity in projects.

Gus Walker, Senior Director of Product Management at Veritone. said “Often times businesses take on AI projects not realizing that it might have been cheaper to continue a process manually instead of investing large amounts of time and money into building a system that doesn’t save the company time or money,”

How AI is making the world a safer place

AI is making a difference in improving public health and safety as the world adapts to a new normal.

The biggest challenge with this coronavirus has been predicting how quickly it can spread. Social distancing measures and the closure of high-risk facilities are viewed as the best way to control the spread, but many areas have been slow to enact such measures because they don’t have an accurate perception of their risk.

An AI powered survey system developed by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel aims to better predict outbreaks² so authorities can proactively enact measures that will mitigate the virus’s spread. The system uses a questionnaire focusing on key issues like isolation practices and health symptoms then match responses with a location-based algorithm. Moreover, AI analysis can identify potential hotspots in advance to help local authorities enact measures that will slow down the virus.

Hospitals and health organizations are getting more inquiries than ever from patients worried that they might have the coronavirus. AI tools specifically designed to address questions related to COVID19 are being introduced into healthcare apps and websites to adapt to the increased inquiries.

Scientific Discovery using AI

Steve Jobs described personal computing as a “bicycle for the mind.” He thinks that computers can be used as “intelligence amplifiers” that offer an important boost for human creativity and are now being given an immediate test in the face of the coronavirus.

The National Library of Medicine and a group of artificial intelligence research groups announced that they had organized the world’s scientific research papers about Covid19 and the documents include more than 44,000 articles, could be explored in new ways using a machine learning program designed to help scientists see patterns and find relationships to assist research.

Oren Etzioni, the chief executive of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, “This is a chance for artificial intelligence.” Allen Institute is a nonprofit research laboratory that was founded in 2014 by Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder.

There has long been a dream of using AI to help with scientific discovery³. The new advances in software applications raise questions about whether computer technologies such as artificial intelligence will enhance or even begin to substitute for human creativity. A rapid set of advances based on new language process techniques leading a variety of technology firms and research groups.

AI Powered Calling Service

Duplex, artificial intelligence-powered calling service automated by Google is now available in Australia, Canada, and the UK which was earlier available only in the US and New Zealand.

Google clarified to The Verge that It isn’t a full rollout of the service, and Google using Duplex mainly to reach businesses in those new countries to update business hours for Google Maps and Search.

CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post “In the coming days, we’ll make it possible for businesses to easily mark themselves as ‘temporarily closed’ using Google My Business. We’re also using our artificial intelligence (AI) technology Duplex where possible to contact businesses to confirm their updated business hours, so we can reflect them accurately when people are looking on Search and Maps.”

Duplex launched as an early beta via Google Assistant in 2018 in the US after a splashy yet controversial debut at that year’s Google I/O developer conference. There were concerns about the use of Duplex regarding proper disclosure that the automated call was being handled by a digital voice assistant⁴ and not a human being.

Google tried to address those concerns by adding disclosures at the beginning of calls and giving businesses the option to opt-out of being recording and speak with a human.

Education adjusting to COVID-19 Crisis

Learning for grades K-12 looks very different than a month ago in light of the recent events surrounding COVID19. Turning homes into classrooms may be overwhelming for parents & educators.

A team led by Media Lab Associate Professor Cynthia Breazeal has launched aieducation.mit.edu keeping that in mind to share a variety of online activities for K-12 students to learn about artificial intelligence, with a focus on how to design and use it responsibly.

This website provides learning resources to address the needs of the millions of children, parents, and educators worldwide who are staying at home due to school closures caused by COVID-19 and are looking for free educational activities that support project-based STEM learning⁵ in an exciting and innovative area.

MIT Open Learning and the Media Lab, MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing collaborated the website, serving as a hub to highlight diverse work by faculty, staff, and students across the MIT community at the intersection of AI, learning, and education.

MIT has revolutionized the way children can learn computational thinking with successful platforms such as Scratch and AppInventor.

MIT professor of computer science & engineering Hal Abelson says “MIT has been a world leader in AI since the 1960s.”

Teaching Children AI

Mark Cuban tweeted “Give your kids an edge, have them sign up and learn the basics of Artificial Intelligence.” He also said, “The way to set your children up for success in this day and age is to ensure they learn about artificial intelligence.”

He is a star on the hit ABC show “#SharkTank” and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team. He was promoting a free, one-hour virtual class his foundation is teaching an introduction to artificial intelligence in collaboration with AIForAnyone, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the literacy of AI⁶understanding.

He promoted the importance of learning and understanding artificial intelligence using his megaphone. He also talked about how important it is for business owners to understand AI at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, in March 2019.

Cuban told Recode’s Peter Kafka “As big as PCs were an impact, as big as the internet was, AI is just going to dwarf it. And if you don’t understand it, you’re going to fall behind. Particularly if you run a business,” He also told Kafka. “I mean, I get it on Amazon and Microsoft and Google, and I run their tutorials. If you go to my bathroom, there’s a book, ‘Machine Learning for Idiots.’ Whenever I get a break, I’m reading it,”

Real-time Noise Suppression

Microsoft announced last month that Teams, its competitor to @Slack, Facebook’s Workplace, and Google’s Hangouts Chat, had passed 44 million daily active users. The milestone overshadowed its unveiling of a few new features coming later this year.

A hand-raising feature to indicate you have something to say, offline and low-bandwidth support to read chat messages and write responses even if you have poor or no internet connection, and an option to pop chats out into a separate window among the most straightforward features. But one feature stood out, real-time noise suppression Microsoft demoed how the AI minimized distracting background noise during a call.

Thousand of times we have you asked someone to mute themselves or to relocate from a noisy area. Real-time noise suppression⁷ will filter out someone typing on their keyboard while in a meeting, the rustling of a bag of chips, and a vacuum cleaner running in the background. AI will remove the background noise in real-time to ensure you hear only speech on the call.

The coronavirus crisis forces the use of collaboration and video conferencing tools are exploding as millions to learn and work from home. Microsoft is leaning on its machine learning expertise to ensure AI features are one of its big differentiators.

Training Models and AI Learning

Amazon researchers propose an AI approach that greatly improves performance on certain meta-learning tasks (i.e., tasks that involve both accomplishing related goals and learning how to learn to perform them) in a paper scheduled to be presented at the upcoming International Conference on Learning Representations. It can be adapted to new tasks with only a handful of labeled training examples, meaning a large corporation could use it to, for example, extract charts and captions from scanned paperwork.

A model trains on a set of labeled data (a support set) and learns to correlate features with the labels in conventional machine learning. It’s then fed a separate set of test data (a query set) and evaluated based on how well it predicts that set’s labels. An AI model learns⁸ to perform tasks with their own sets of training data and test data and the model sees both by contrast, during meta-learning. AI learns how particular ways of responding to the training data affect performance on the test data in this way.

The model is trained on tasks that are related but not identical to the tasks it saw during meta learning in a second stage called meta testing. The model once again sees both training and test data, but the labels are unknown and must be predicted for each task.

COVID-19 accelerating adoption of AI

Cloud computing kicked into high gear and started to become a pervasive, transformational technology after the financial crisis of 2008. AI applications could be central during the current COVID-19 crisis. Though the implications of AI continue to be debated on the world stage, the rapid onset of a global health crisis and concomitant recession will accelerate its impact.

AI technologies help to discover new drugs — either vaccine or treatment — have kicked into hyperdrive. Companies are forming partnerships with academia to find a cure and startups are racing to find solutions as well. Companies are also researching existing drugs to identify their potential applicability.

AI is possibly saving years of research proving a useful tool for dramatically reducing the time needed to identify potential drug candidates. AI is already screening for COVID19⁹ symptoms, automating hospital operations, and supporting the decision for CTscans. Robots have started to perform a variety of healthcare functions.

AI will be an even larger part not only for healthcare but also for other technology landscape going forward. “Americans are growing more comfortable shopping for food or electronics without the aid of another human,” according to the March 2020 Automated Retail Tracker.

Secure computation of AI models

Ateam of researchers from Princeton, Microsoft, the nonprofit Algorand Foundation, and Technion proposes Falcon, an end-to-end framework for secure computation of AI models¹⁰on distributed systems in an academic paper published this week on the preprint server Arxiv.org.

It’s the first secure C++ framework to support high-capacity AI models and batch normalization, a technique for improving both the speed and stability of models as per their claim. Falcon can outperform existing solutions by up to a factor of 200 and it automatically aborts when it detects the presence of malicious attackers.

Falcon could be a step toward a pipeline tailored to domains where privacy and security are table stakes, such as healthcare. Running machine learning models in a privacy-preserving fashion without computational trade-offs remains an unsolved challenge despite the emergence of techniques like federated learning and homomorphic encryption.

Data holders who own the training data sets, and query users who query the system post-learning in a distributed AI usage scenario as per Falcon’s assumption. A machine learning model of interest is trained on data from the data holders and queried by the query users, such that the data holders share their data securely between servers.

UK’s role in development of AI

An important role played by the UK in the history and development of AI. The greatest British mathematician, Alan Turing is considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and has deep roots in AI as well. Turing envisioned the Turing test to determine a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human to crafting the foundations for modern computing.

The UK was not only heavily involved in AI development from the very first years, but also helped bring about the first AI Winter¹¹ in the industry as well. The UK has been making heavy investments in AI and continues to show its strength in the field. “The United Kingdom has one of the strongest AI strategies in the world with strong government funding for AI, strong research activity in the field, strong VC funding and AI startups, and strong enterprise activity and adoption of AI”-According to a recent report by research firm Cognilytica.

The UK established an All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI to address ethical issues, industrial norms, regulatory options and social impact for AI in Parliament in 2017. We have to change with AI to ensure the future of the use of this technology.

Works Cited:

¹Building AI Projects, ²AI predicting COVID-19 Outbreak, ³Scientific Discovery, ⁴Digital Voice Assistant, ⁵STEM Learning, ⁶AI Literacy, ⁷Real-Time Noise Suppression, ⁸AI Learning, ⁹AI Screening COVID-19, ¹⁰Secure Computation of AI Models, ¹¹AI Winter