White House Calls On Google, Microsoft, Other Tech Cos. To Discuss Future Of AI

On Thursday the White House will host a summit to discuss developments in artificial intelligence (AI) with Accenture, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Intel, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and representatives from many other companies.

The tech companies will be joined by more than 100 senior government officials, academics, and research and business leaders, according to one report.

President Donald Trump’s tech advisor Michael Kratsios will host the meeting. The administration estimates the U.S. government spent more than “$2 billion in unclassified programs alone during the 2017 fiscal year to research and develop AI technology, reportsThe Washington Post, citing data from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.



Google and Microsoft are charting their respective paths in AI, and on separate occasions have been very public in their quest to develop AI platforms and embed the technology into all their respective services. For example, Microsoft touts AI as being the backbone of Bing, its search engine. 

Microsoft on Monday also announced the idea of running AI projects on top of semiconductor chips called field programmable gate arrays or FPGAs that can be programmed to quickly support software. A service connected to a new cloud offering for image-recognition projects powered by the FPGA technology will support the healthcare division of Nestle, which will analyze the severity of acne from pictures submitted by patients.

Google announced on Tuesday the development of Duplex, an experimental feature based on artificial intelligence (AI) in Assistant that can make calls to businesses on a consumer’s behalf and carry out a conversation to book restaurant reservations and hair appointments. No doubt this is the first of many similar features to come that will build on applications for self-driving cars and facial recognition.

The technology built into Google Assistant can carry on natural conversations, taking a step past the very sophisticated AI technology from SoundHound’s platform, Houndify.

Duplex also learns the nuances of speech in the process, and pulls from information stored in connected devices such as a smartphone calendars to make decisions on the human’s behalf.  

During the Trump administration’s summit scheduled for later this week, U.S. government officials intend to discuss funding for “cutting-edge research” into technologies like machine learning for agriculture, health care and transportation.

The advancements in AI technology brings up another important question -- whether companies developing natural voice technologies like Duplex should tell callers they are talking to a machine as the machine encounters more complex tasks other than a simply reservation.

The AI, with all the nuances of human speech patterns such as Ums and Uhs, seems human-like. In an interview, Yossi Matias, Google vice president of engineering, told CNET the software would likely tell the person on the other end of the phone they are talking to an AI machine. CNET reports that if the robot cannot complete the task, the call will get kicked to a call center to complete the task. At least for now. 

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