What is AI
Artificial Intelligence or AI is a term thrown around a lot lately. But when people are asked to explain what it means, not everyone can clearly articulate an explanation. What I can say for sure is that AI is not new. I’ve studied the subject for my undergraduate and postgraduate studies from 2006 to 2016, and was captivated by the immense research and applications that traced back to the second half of the 20th century.
Put simply, AI is a broader term to explain computer or software processes that attempts to simulate human interactions and behaviours. Machine learning, which coincides with AI, is actually a subset of AI that predicts trends based on existing data. In fact, when the computer was invented, one of the earliest ideas was to create an AI powered mechanical device similar to a human brain. If we compared the human body with computer systems, we can see that they both have inputs and outputs. When the body’s five senses are in charge of collecting and receiving inputs, the body generates outputs through speech, and physical body movements. There are countless applications under the AI umbrella, and I’ll attempt to explain each application through the lens of the five human senses: Sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Sight or Vision
AI scientists have been working on simulating the processing ability of the human eye through operations, including image processing algorithms IPA (Image Processing and Analyzing), DIP (Digital Image Processing), and other sub-fields under IPA/DIP such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Image Enhancement Algorithms. The vision process that allows humans to see is split into two sub-processes: capturing the image and comprehending the image in the brain. The comprehension piece is where AI algorithms do their magic. IPA and DIP leverage machine learning and natural image processing to analyze an image and project the results to a screen or other hardware that explains what the captured image is.
The real challenge is to process images at the human level in real-time where results are given immediately. Other areas that still need a lot of work is image enhancement i.e. piecing together missing pieces of images or turning a blurry and unreadable image into a crisp high-definition image.
Voice, specifically voice assistants, is an emerging field recently popularized by the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant interacting through proprietary hardware (Echo, Dot, and Google Home respectively). Within voice, there are a lot of sub-topics we can dive into:
Although it’s something everyone is talking about, in comparison to other AI applications, the development of voice is lagging behind. We’re only able to translate speech-to-text and text-to-speech. Although companies, such as Samsung with their recently revealed voice assistant called Bixby (not yet released), have made attempts to understand human’s natural speech and perform the appropriate actions, it’s still in its infancy and needs more work to behave more efficiently.
When you watch a typical spy, or James Bond film, a character sometimes impersonates another person’s sound and look. The ability to impersonate and mimic someone’s voice in tone, accent and style of speech in real-time is still a work in progress.
Here’s part two of my blog, where I cover AI applications for smell, taste and touch. Leave me a comment below if you have any thoughts, comments or questions!
Alaa Eljatib was fascinated by the possibilities and capabilities of AI, and pursued a masters and Ph.D in AI at Damascus University in Syria. After leaving his home in 2016, he joined TribalScale as an Agile Software Engineer bringing his wealth of experience in AI and engineering.