Frank Chen of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) wrote about how AI and humans can work together in a blog post version of his talk at the November 2018 a16z Summit. He introduces lots of AI-powered startups (many of which are in the a16z portfolio) that enable this human-machine collaboration across five categories. Here’s a rundown:
Automating the routine enables us to be more creative: People.ai automatically populates data into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for marketing and sales companies; Everlaw processes and sorts files relevant to a case for legal firms; Dialpad analyzes support calls and extracts pain points; Suki listens to doctor-patient conversations to keep medical files up to date.
Machine learning gives us superpowers in the physical world: Pindrop can identify fraud by listening to the audio quality of phone calls; Doxel’s robots scan construction sites to track progress and find potential issues; Tesla’s cars can detect accidents two cars ahead of you and hit the brakes; OrCam’s clip-on camera for glasses can tell people with impaired vision things like how much cash they have in their hand.
Helping Us Make Better Decisions: Cresta.ai figures out best practices from sales chats; KoBold is analyzing geological data to find likely locations for cobolt; Branch is using data to give loans to people without credit history.
Automating dangerous jobs & tasks makes us safer: Zipline uses drones to deliver blood and vaccines in Rwanda; Shield.ai sends drones into buildings for reconnaissance.
Machine learning will help us understand each other better: Affectiva and Brain Power help autistic children understand emotional states of other people; Crisis Text Line uses ML to help counselors figure out who is at risk of self-harm.
The big trend in many of these is that AI can take over repetitive or dangerous parts of jobs, leaving humans in charge of the creative side. Earlier this week, EdIntelligence
put on a panel discussion on the Future of Work
, where the panelists echoed this perspective. Subramanian Ramamoorthy
argued that “human creativity will continue to find a balance between what’s automated and what’s not automated,” and journalist Paul Mason
said it’s already happening now, with people working four-day weeks without a loss in productivity because of back-business process automation. More here:
Google has added on-device speech recognition to Gboard, the custom software keyboard its Pixel phones. This is really cool for two reasons. First, it’s based on a character-level recurrent neural network, so it’s eerily fast—"just as if someone was typing out what you say in real-time,“ according to Google. Second, it’s completely on-device and offline, so it doesn’t need wait on sending and receiving data from a remote server. More here:
Fast Company did a feature on Microsoft’s pipeline for getting its AI research into products. In the past, Microsoft Research (MSR) was often criticized for “struggling to turn their innovations into features.” Under CEO Satya Nadella, this has changed, with internal conferences and hackathons that put MSR researchers and product teams in the same room to come up with projects. Harry Shum, Microsoft’s executive VP of AI and research, thinks this new collaboration works quite well:
“Nowadays, to do a lot of very exciting AI research, you need to get access to real problems and you need to get access to data,” says Shum. “This is where you work together with [product teams]. You build a new model, you train the new model, and then you tweak your new model. Now you have advanced your basic research further. And along the way, you never know–you could get a breakthrough.”
You can now take a photo of a spreadsheet and automatically import it into Excel.
This is a good example of Microsoft’s AI research making it into products: using your phone, take a photo of a printed-out data table in a newspaper, and the app can automatically turn it into a fully editable Excel file. It even figures out things like units, header rows, and which columns represent sums or averages. Tom Warren at The Verge: Microsoft Excel will now let you snap a picture of a spreadsheet and import it