Smartphones and beyond: the rise of AI



Artificial Intelligence sounds like futuristic technology, bringing to mind the man-against-machine trope in movies like The Matrix or The Terminator. But the truth is, artificial intelligence is already being used in technology we use daily: our smartphones.


We use it to shop, navigate the internet, and capture our memories with our phones’ cameras. We may even be having conversations with it when we chat with a customer service representative online.

But before it became commonplace, it was a novelty that fascinated computer scientists. And it started with checkers. That’s right, checkers.


AI is a broad term used to describe a machine’s ability to use human intelligence, but it’s often also used to refer to machine learning to predict behavior and decision making.

The first computer learning program was written in 1952 on an IBM computer. As the computer played checkers against a human, the more it improved. It studied which moves made up winning strategies and applied what it learned into its programming.


A decade later, an algorithm (a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or problem-solving) was written that allowed computers to use very basic pattern recognition.


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By the 1990s, machine learning shifted from a knowledge-driven approach to a data-driven approach, meaning computer programs began to “learn” by analyzing large amounts of data.


In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue program beat the world champion at chess.

Things started to progress quickly in the succeeding years. Microsoft Kinect was developed and could track 20 human features at a rate of 30 times per second, allowing people to interact with a computer using movements and gestures.


Then an IBM program beats a human at a game, again – this time multiple opponents at Jeopardy.


In 2011, Google developed a machine learning algorithm that is able to autonomously browse YouTube for videos of cats. In 2014, Facebook developed a facial recognition system called DeepFace.


Now this sounds like the world as we know it today.


The software and hardware in our smartphones have long-been enhanced by AI and this technology will continue to play an essential role in future smartphone and technology innovations.


Netflix, Pandora, Google and other search engines as well as social media all provide us with personalized experiences by using AI and machine learning to curate content based on our habits and likes.


AI and computer learning enable us to easily sort through the vast amount of online information to find exactly what we’re looking for. It’s used to enhance search engines so that we see the most relevant information. It’s made it possible for visual search, in apps like Pinterest and Bixby Vision.


If users had to sift through thousands of items of content or had to find people they know on social media, I honestly don’t think the smartphone would be as ubiquitous as it is today. I don’t think people would like to do those things on a small screen. People like it easy. Thanks to AI, the smartphone is truly a product of convenience for a technology-savvy society.


AI has helped us read beyond the language barrier with real-time translations. When Samsung launched Bixby in 2018 on the Samsung Galaxy S9 series, it touted the software’s ability to translate text into different languages using the phone cameras. All one has to do is turn on the camera and hold it over any text and view the translation right there on the camera app.


We can also thank AI for amazing phone cameras. Certain camera features are powered by AI, such as high-resolution zoom. High-resolution zoom images are actually created by an AI algorithm that produces the details, not necessarily the lens. Night-mode, low-light, portrait and other features are equipped with AI, which helps capture the best possible photos by calculating lighting, angle and motion.


Even our smartphone security measures are made possible by AI. Apple began using facial recognition AI with the launch of FaceID in iPhone X in 2017. Since then, every iPhone has been equipped with FaceID and the technology continues to improve.


Innovation in AI technology in smartphones continues to grow and expand, attracting investment and spurring applications in other industries, such as the virtual assistant that is poised to take on a greater role in everyday life.


In January, Amazon launched Alexa Custom Assistant, which allows device makers and service providers to create intelligent assistants.

The Alexa Custom Assistant is powered by Alexa’s voice AI technology that uses wake words, voice, skills and other capabilities. According to Amazon, Alexa Custom Assistant is based on spoken language, understanding, intent routing and response orchestration to provide a natural, intelligent and conversational interface. Companies will have access to Alexa’s pre-built functions like local search, weather, timers and alarms. Companies will be able to create custom skills, like controlling certain appliances, troubleshooting and interacting with customers.


AI applications in health and wellness continue to be attractive to investors and developers, with major tech companies like Apple and Samsung launching new-and-improved smart watches seemingly every year. In February, Google announced that it had advanced the AI technology on the Google Fit app to measure heart and respiratory rates. The app will first roll out on the Google Pixel this month, then will be made available to other Android smartphones at a later time.

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The Google Fit app uses advances in computer vision and sensors to track physical signals, like chest movements to measure breathing and changes in the color of fingers to determine heart rate. The app uses sensors in a smartphone’s camera and a heart rate algorithm that relies on approximating blood flow from color changes in the user’s fingertip.


Smart homes, or connected homes, are steadily becoming the next big frontier for home security, virtual assistants and smartphones.


Smart home hubs equipped with virtual assistants will connect a user to their home via a smartphone, allowing users to remotely monitor and control security cameras, lights, window and door monitors and appliances. Powered by AI, a virtual assistant will be able to monitor the home when the homeowner can’t and take actions independently. For example, by studying daily habits, AI could determine if an open door at certain time is suspicious enough to notify the homeowner or law enforcement. Or it could “decide” to turn off lights when a user may have fallen asleep.


But as with many new innovations, there are challenges associated with expanding AI. There are security and privacy concerns, which AI developers address with frequently improved cybersecurity solutions to protect users’ sensitive information.


Some might be concerned that AI will replace human workers, creating a dystopia portrayed in many sci-fi movies. In general, I think advances in technology result in a shift in required skills. Job seekers may have to adjust to the job market by learning skills related to computer science, programming, and so on.


While I’m not anticipating an AI uprising, I am anticipating the application of AI being in more industries that impact daily life. AI is no longer a novelty, but a technological advancement with which we as a society will soon have regular interaction.

Jay R. Shedd is Chief Marketing Officer at IT&E, the largest wireless service and sales provider in Guam and the Marianas. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry.



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