This new toy looks so bright! Do you know why ?

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Last week I found that new toy  called “CogniToys” for infants will be developed in the project of Kickstarter, one of the biggest platforms in cloud funding.  The developer is elemental path, one of the three winners of the IBM Watson competition. Let see why it is so bright!

According to the web site of this company,  this toy is connected to the internet.  When a child talks to this toy, it can reply because this toy can see what a child says and answer the question from a child.  It usually requires less than one second to answer because IBM Watson-powered system is powerful enough to calculate answers quickly.

 

Let us look at the descriptions of this company’s technology.

“The Elemental Path technology is built to easily license and integrate into existing product lines. Our dialog engine is able to utilize some of the most advanced language processing algorithms available driving the personalization of our platform, and keeping the interaction going between toy and child.”

Key words are 1. Dialog    2. Language processing   3. Personalization

 

1. Dialog

This toy communicates with children by conversation, rather than programming. Therefore technology called “speech recognition” is needed in it.  This technology is applied in real-time machine translation such as Microsoft Skype, too.

 

2. Language processing

In the area of machine learning, it is called “Natural language processing”. Based on the structure of sentence and phrase, the toy understands what children say.  IBM Watson is very expert in the field of natural language processing because Watson should understand the meaning of questions in Jeopardy contests before.

 

3. Personalization

It is beneficial when children talk to this toy, it knows children preference in advance. This technology is called “Personalization”.  Through interactions between children and the toy, it can learn what children like to cognize. This technology is oftentimes used in retailers such as Amazon and Netflix. There is no disclosure about the method of personalization as far as I know.  I am very interested in how the personalization mechanism works.

 

In short, machine learning enables this toy to work and be smart. Functions of Machine Learning are provided as a service by big IT companies, such as IBM and Microsoft.  Therefore, this kind of applications is expected to be put out to the market in future. This is amazing, isn’t it?  I imagine next versions of the toy can see images,  identify what they are and share images with children because technology called image recognition is also offered as a service by big companies.

I ordered one CogniToy through Kickstarter. It is expected to deliver in November this year. I will report how it works when I get it!

 

Note:IBM, IBM Watson Analytics, the IBM logo are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. 

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What can computers do now ? It looks very smart !

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Lately I found that several companies such as Microsoft and IBM provide us services by machine learning. Let us see what is going on now.

These new services are based on the progress on Machine learning recently. For example, Machine translation services between English and Spanish are provided by Microsoft skype. It uses Natural Language Processing by Machine learning. Although it started at Dec 2014, the quality of the services is expected to be improved quickly as a lot of people use and computer can learn the data from such users.

 

It is beneficial for you to explain what computers can do lately so that you can imagine new services in future. First, computers can see the images and videos and identify what it is. This is image recognition. Second, it can listen to our speech and interpret what you mean. This is speech recognition. It can translate one language to another, as well. This is machine translation. Third, computers can research based on concepts rather than key words. Fourth, it can calculate best choice among the potential options. This is an optimization. In short computers can see, listen to, read, speak and think.

These functions are utilized in many products and services although you cannot notice it. For example, IBM Watson Analytics provides these functions through platform as a service to developers.

 

I expect these functions enable computers to behave just like us. At the initial phase, it may be not so good just like a baby. However, machine learning allows computers to learn from experience. It means that the computer will perform better than we do in many fields. As you know, Shogi, one of the popular Japanese board game, artificial machine players can beat human professional teams. This is amazing!

Proceeding forward, it is recommended that you understand how computers are progressing in terms of the functions above. Many companies such as Google, Facebook invest a great deal of money in this filed. Therefore, many services are anticipated to be released in near future. Some of new services can impact our jobs, education and society a lot. Some of them may arise new industries in future.

 

Some day, when you are in the room, the computer can identify you by computer vision. Then ask if you want to drink a cup of coffee. The computer holds a lot of data, such as temperature, weather, time, season, your preference in it and generates the best coffee for you. If you want to know how this coffee is generated, the computer provides you a detailed report about the coffee. All settings are done automatically. It is the ultimate coffee maker by using powerful computer algorithm. Do you want it for you?

 

 

Note:IBM, IBM Watson Analytics, the IBM logo are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. 

Is this message spoken by human or machine?!

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Firstly, could you watch the video ?   Our senior instructor speaks about himself.  It sounds natural for me,  far better than my poor English. Then the question comes. Who speaks in reality?  Human or machine?  The answer is IBM Watson,  one of the famous artificial intelligence in the world.  When I listened to his (or her?) English, I was very surprised as it sounds very natural and fluent.  I want to have artificial English speakers for a long time in order to develop self speaking apps. Finally, I found it!

This function is one of the new five services provided in IBM Watson Developer Cloud as beta service.   Now it has 13 functions total. Here are new services.

  1. Speech to Text :  Speech can be converted to text in real-time basis. It looks good when I try to convert news broadcast into text.
  2. Text to Speech :  This is used to prepare the video message above without native speakers. It sounds natural for both male and female voices.  English and Spanish (only male) are currently available. One of them is the American English voice used by Watson in the 2011 Jeopardy match
  3. Visual Recognition : When you can input jpg image, Watson can identify what it is with probabilities.  I try several images, however it looks less accurate than I expected so far. In my view it needs improvement to be used in applications.
  4. Concept Insights : According to explanations in the company blog, the Concept Insights service links documents that you provide with a pre-existing graph of concepts based on Wikipedia.   I think it is useful as it works beyond just using keywords in searching information.
  5. Tradeoff Analytics : According to explanations in the company blog, it helps people make better choices when faced with conflicting goals and multiple alternatives, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  I think it has optimization algorithms in it. It may be useful to construct investment portfolios.

Watson can listen to speeches,  read text and speak it.  It also can see the image and understand what is to some extent. Therefore Watson can do the same thing as human do with new added functions.  Therefore, in theory,  mobile applications can obtain the same functions as people do, such as seeing, reading, listening and speaking.

IBM Watson Developer Cloud has a plan to add new functions as they are ready. Although they are currently beta service,  its quality must be improved gradually as machine learning behind services learns a lot in future. It enables us to develop new services with artificial intelligence to be available in a short period.  It must be amazing. What kind of services do you want? Maybe it will be available in near future !

Note:IBM, IBM Watson, the IBM logo are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. 

Can you win Atari games against computers? It seems to be impossible anymore

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I think it is better to watch the youtube of interview here first. Onstage at TED2014, Charlie Rose interviews Google CEO Larry Page about his far-off vision for the company.  Page talks through the company’s recent acquisition of Deep Mind, an AI that is learning some surprising.  At the time of 2 minutes 30 seconds in his interview,  he talks about DeepMind for two minutes.

 

According to white paper from DeepMind which were bought by Google at 650m USD in Jan 2014,  in three games of Atari 2600, Breakout, Enduro, Pong,  human can not win against computers after computer learns how each game works for a couple of hours.  There is only one same program prepared for each game and there is no input about how to win the specific game in advance.  It means that only one program should learn how to obtain high score from scratch by itself.  At the result of six games,  computers could record higher score than human experts in three games. It is amazing.

Reinforcement learning, one of machine learning, is used in this challenge. It is different form machine learning used in image recognition and natural language processing.  In reinforcement learning,  reward functions are used to decide what the best policy among many choices in the long run.  We can say in short “how much we should give up today’s lunch,  in order to maximize total sum of lunches tomorrow and later”. We always face this kind of problems but it is difficult for computers to answer.  However DeepMind proved reinforcement learning works well against this kind of problems when they presented the demo at the end of 2013.

 

If this kind of decision-making is available by computers, it will give huge impacts to intellectual jobs, such as lawyers, fund managers, analysts and cooperate officers because they make decisions in long-term horizon, rather than outcomes in tomorrow. They have a lot of experiences in the past, some of  them are successes and others are failures, they can use these experiences when they make a plan for the future.  If computers can use same logic as human and make decisions by themselves, it can be a revolution for intelligent job.  For example, at board meetings in companies, computers may answer questions about management strategies from board members based on the massive amount of past examples and tell them how to maximize future cash flow by using reinforcement learning.  Future cash flow is the most important thing to board members because share holders require to maximize it.

 

Currently a lot of discussions about our future jobs are going on because it is probable that many jobs will be replaced by computers in near future. If reinforcement learning have been improved, CEO of companies might be replaced by computers and share holders might welcome for them in future ?!