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Robot arm reaches out for a butter fly - AI and computer vision make the world a better place

Making the world a better place

September 25, 2018

AI Series part 10: AI and Computer Vision are making the world a better place

In the last chapter of our AI series, we touched on IBM Watson’s AI XPRIZE, a competition seeking to find innovative ways in which engineers and entrepreneurs can apply AI to address global social, environmental and humanitarian challenges. This is an interesting concept amid the fears that drones will threaten the world and robots will take over our jobs. In this chapter, we look at how AI and computer vision are making the world a better place, contrary to these reservations.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition technology is one area making sizeable contributions towards creating a safer world. Apple’s FaceID technology means that consumers can benefit from new developments in this field; Kairos is one organization using AI and computer vision to help financial service companies with customer verification to prevent fraud. AiCure is assisting in monitoring the intake of medication via its smartphone app. Patients video themselves taking their medication and health professionals are alerted when this doesn’t happen at the right time or in the correct manner. The goal is that health deterioration and even hospitalization can be avoided. Umbo Light is an AI-enabled surveillance system which has been trained to recognize potentially suspicious human behavior including loitering, wall-climbing and stalking in an attempt to create a safer environment.

Imaging for agriculture

Agriculture is also benefitting from AI and computer vision, in particular in developing countries and more challenging environments. Datakind, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been working on a project to alleviate poverty resulting from crop failure in Ethiopia. Their predictive model uses satellite imagery, multispectral imaging and computer vision techniques to foretell and therefore alleviate incidences of wheat rust. Other organizations are putting vision sensors and algorithms to work in identifying the exact amount of water, fertilizers and pesticides that are required (literally) in the field. Often using drones to collect images, farmers can target specific areas to reduce wastage and harmful chemical usage. Even enhancing pisciculture, IMVE’s article on Aquabyte explains how 3D cameras and AI are being put to work to count sea lice and calculate the biomass of farmed fish in Norway, optimizing the fishes’ feed patterns and condition.

AI tool for removing harmful images

In early September, Google released a new AI tool developed to assist in removing images of abuse and terrorism from the Internet. Going one step further than Microsoft’s PhotoDNA tool, which searches for and disables previously-identified illegal material, this latest software professes to recognize newly-created harmful images and highlights them for urgent review. This could be a major step in the cessation of online child sexual abuse material as Google are offering their DNN tool for free to certain organizations. It has cited a case study in which 700% more content was reviewed compared to traditional methods[1].

Bring on the bots

And for those who are still worried about being displaced by robots in the workplace, The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) published a reassuring report earlier this year which states that “recent computerization was associated with a declining share of routine-task-intensive middle-skill jobs, while, on net, it has led to an increase of labor demand.”[2] In fact, another side to the argument suggests that increased automation in the workplace will lead to an improved work-life balance, with robots working through the night while we engage more with our families and enjoy extra leisure time. In that case – bring on the bots!

Read previous chapters in our AI series here.


[1] https://www.blog.google/around-the-globe/google-europe/using-ai-help-organizations-detect-and-report-child-sexual-abuse-material-online/

[2] https://www.zew.de/en/publikationen/els-issues-in-robotics-and-steps-to-consider-them-part-1-robotics-and-employment/