Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Microsoft Mapping Course to a Future In Line with "The Empirical Future" Blog

Microsoft's Laura is an interesting, early attempt at something like AI intended to interact with humans - and "her" process of observing her human interactants and deducing subtle cues regarding the character and attitude of these humans fits well with my ideas with regards to this technology.
Microsoft Empirical Future
Here's a most interesting article, discussing Microsoft and Intel's deepening investment in and vision for Artificially Intelligent applications:

Microsoft Mapping Course to a Jetsons-Style Future

As I've indicated many times, Microsoft is quite a logical place to look for widespread AI apps, not just because of their prevalence and wealth, but because that wealth has allowed them to hire tons of top-notch researchers in those fields.

In fact, the dearth of discernably "intelligent" software (as opposed to "functionally rich" software, which although not necessarily in principle different, in execution is in fact completely different) from Microsoft or elsewhere has been a major reason for my reservations about "where's all the AI?" all along. If Microsoft's, Intel's, and eventually other's plans to start to play out along the lines they hope, this could start to address my concerns in a major way.

This article is an indication that, perhaps, purely "functional" software, though still important, may be close to the end of its rapid growth trajectory, and "intelligent" software, that explicitly incorporates AI techniques along the lines below (and, eventually, countless others), are finally coming to the fore as the next big source of software and hardware growth.

And though not described in this article, Microsoft is also contributing importantly to the field of robotics, with the first "operating system" for robotic control (that's been around a while), so that not each robot has to have its own custom operating system.

This supports the point I've made repeatedly that the best place to look for sophisticated AI is not from someone's garage, but from the currently recognizable computer hardware and software industries.

And if that in fact becomes the case, you will NOT see AI that kicks your ass, tries to take over the world, or crap like that. You will see AI that is conceived, designed, and produced as consumer applications, for the purpose of making money.

Some interesting quotes from this article:

"Built by researchers at Microsoft, Laura appears as a talking head on a screen. You can speak to her and ask her to handle basic tasks like booking appointments for meetings or scheduling a flight.

More compelling, however, is Laura’s ability to make sophisticated decisions about the people in front of her, judging things like their attire, whether they seem impatient, their importance and their preferred times for appointments.

Instead of being a relatively dumb terminal, Laura represents a nuanced attempt to recreate the finer aspects of a relationship that can develop between an executive and an assistant over the course of many years."

If "Laura" can do things like the above well, she will be light-years ahead of Ramona, Microsoft's former PC "assistants" such as Bob and the paperclip, or any other chatbot I've seen.

What's Laura doing? Deducing subtle cues from being observant of its human interactant(s), a key aspect of ostensibly intelligent behavior.

I describe a far more advanced version of this same approach, in the context of droids, here:
Envisioning the Hyperintelligent Droid

If you choose to explore this link, scroll near the bottom, where I describe the droid/advanced AI skills of supersubtlety, hyperobservancy, and ultracoordination. The reason for the "super", "hyper", and "ultra" designations is because this is for an ostensibly very advanced, hyperintelligent technology. Of course, before we get to these superlatives, there will simply being able to deduce subtle cues from observant behavior, which the path that Laura, and Microsoft and Intel, are on.

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