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AI as a Tool, Not a Threat, to Eyecare and Society

By Jamie Wilson and Catherine Wolinski, Contributing Editor
Monday, April 24, 2017 12:29 AM

The Vision Monday Summit kicked off with Session One: “Insight, Integration and Investment” starring Hilary Mason, founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, a data research company that helps organizations utilize their data science and machine intelligence capabilities.

“AI is whatever computers can’t do today,” said Mason, who described herself as a “nerd.” Despite her intricate and intimate knowledge of the artificial intelligence field, Mason put cerebral concepts into relatable contexts, identifying AI’s everyday appearances in technologies such as Google Maps, search engines and email spam filters.

Spam filters, she said, use natural language processing, a branch of AI that deals with a machine understanding spoken or printed words in human languages. This can be very convenient in the work environment. “Rather than having a person decide whether an email is spam or not spam, a machine figures it out. That’s a very powerful technique,” she said.

Google Maps is one of Mason’s favorite examples of AI’s capabilities to enhance everyday life. “You can look at your phone and make a decision about what you’re going to do with no understanding of what’s going on with the data. You don’t even have to think about it at all. This, to me, is the most successful type of AI product,” she said.

Hilary Mason, founder & CEO, Fast Forward Labs, a data science company, believes that AI is not a threat, but rather a tool that is “advancing the human professional in the work that they do.”
Another concept Mason covered was automatic summarization, or in laymen’s terms, using a computer program to summarize a text document, such as a news article or lengthy report. “These are tools for understanding very large, complex amounts of information that were previously out of reach for us,” said Mason, who disputed the fear that using AI for things like automatic summarization could take away the need for human work.

“We’re looking for areas where people do repetitive tasks to generate data. Using AI in these instances will reduce overall costs and give permission to do more creative work, to build new products that wouldn’t have been built before.”

As Mason and other players in her field would agree, AI is not a threat, but a tool that is “advancing the human professional in the work that they do. We’re really just at the beginning of seeing the impact of these tools in our society,” she concluded.




Mobility: The Next Disruption
Mark Platshon, managing director and co-founder of Icebreaker Ventures-Autonomous World Fund, sought to educate the audience about the next disruption—mobility—by discussing self-driving vehicles and dispelling some of the myths surrounding autonomous driving in his presentation on the future of mobility.

Platshon spoke at length about the research relating to autonomous cars, the car industry as well as how this AI technology relates back to humans, but first he started things off by explaining the current state of things—that the automobile industry is in the middle of a “WTF” moment: What’s the Future?

Platshon said, “The car hasn’t changed in 100 years and all of a sudden, this technology comes in and here’s the WTF moment: What’s The Future? How are we getting from four wheels to something that’s a computer on wheels that will take us into the future?”

Mark Platshon, managing director and co-founder of Icebreaker Ventures-Autonomous World Fund sought to educate the audience about the next disruption—self-driving vehicles.
Since the initial WTF moment, more and more companies have realized that this is something they should chase and work on. With gains happening every year and technology continuing to improve, the disruption that the automotive industry is going through is affecting many different facets of life and society.

Autonomous cars work by using mapping/localization, perception, analysis and planning and robotics to dive. “Everything that happens in the economy is related to people and good movement. The more you take friction out of the system you boost economy. You get tremendous leverage in productivity and creativity.”

Platshon went on to detail the areas in which there were huge applications for autonomy such as in Industrial: farming and construction. Specialized: tourism and medical. Transportation: mass transit and ride/hail. Consumer: retail and shared. Logistics: delivery and cargo/freight to name a few.

In addition to the many areas autonomy can be applied to, autonomous vehicles will generate huge economic benefits. According to Morgan Stanley research about the U.S. market, they predict that autonomous cars total savings would be $1.3 trillion. In a more detailed breakdown, $488 billion would be saved from accident avoidance, $507 billion from increased productivity from autonomous cars, $138 billion from congestion avoidance, $11 billion in fuel savings from congestion avoidance and $158 billion in fuel savings.

With all of the research and trials being done in testing autonomous vehicles, Platshon went on to detail how to safely test all of this emerging software and elaborated on how a crowdsources fleet utilizing “shadow mode” generates big data in a safer way for the companies conducting the testing.

“You don’t have to do true autonomy to test autonomous driving data. This is the next industrial revolution … it will get us to safe, effective autonomy and beyond.”


Man and the Machine

As the final speaker in the Insight, Integration and Investment segment, Chandra Narayanaswami, PhD, chief scientist and senior manager of IBM Commerce Research took to the stage to discuss cognitive computing systems and how all of this technology and deep learning translates into the eyecare and eyewear industry.

After telling an anecdote involving three IBM scientists who used an excimer laser to carve a Thanksgiving turkey, Narayanaswami went into detail about artificial intelligence and its impact on the potential to solve problems, opening many new frontiers. He explained how the laser was then used to experiment on live tissue which led to the development of LASIK surgery.

Chandra Narayanaswami, PhD, chief scientist and senior manager of IBM Commerce Research, outlined artifi cial intelligence and its impact on the potential to solve problems, opening many new frontiers.
He continued by discussing early AI systems before going into the next phase of artificial intelligence called the “AI Renaissance.” This renaissance is occurring due to the recent trends driving change, such as probability and statistics, that provide a fundamental formalism for AI as well as a more sophisticated machine learning algorithms, more computing power and vast amounts of data.

Now, in this phase of artificial intelligence, man and machine are working symbiotically with each other leveraging the other’s expertise and strengths.

“As a result of all of these developments, neuro networks approach human accuracy in speech recognition and image recognition. This has great implication in eyecare for image analysis in disease screening,” Narayanaswami said.

He went on to illustrate this with examples such as diabetic retinopathy with glucose monitoring in eyecare as well as personalization and smart glasses in eyewear.

“It’s not us versus the machine. It’s us with the machine,” he concluded.
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