Three surprising ways the future of AI is already here

Published August 26, 2020   |   

Artificial intelligence as envisioned by popular culture is still a distant goal for computer scientists and engineers. While many researchers are making progress towards creating robots that look, act, and think like humans, current applications of AI are invisible to many people. In fact, AI is already here; it’s written into the algorithms that suffuse daily life. Read on to discover three applications that leverage the power of AI to solve problems today.

AI Is Changing the Way You Drive

Have you ever wondered how Google Maps always knows the fastest route for you to take to your destination? Years ago, before AI, Google Maps was a competitor to peers like MapQuest, which used static cartography data to find users a path between two points on a map. But with two major breakthroughs in AI technology, Google was able to transform the services it offered. First, new machine learning models allowed Google to add new buildings to their mapping databases much more quickly. Machine learning is a part of AI that describes how the intelligence acquires new information. In this case, Google engineers built models that could identify an array of typical building shapes, and let the model add buildings to its database independently.

Second, Google discovered a way to use machine learning to help drivers evade traffic jams in real time. The Google Maps app on your phone uses your phone’s location services to collect anonymized data about where you are, which it combines with similar data from other users. This aggregate data observes average speed and clustering of users to determine if there’s enough of a traffic jam to warrant calculating a new, faster route to get you to your destination. Combined with historical data about how long it takes drivers to travel a certain route at a particular type of day, Google can almost always estimate the best way to get you where you need to be.

AI Decides What You See on Social Media

If you’ve ever noticed Facebook tagging faces in your photos without any help from you, you’ve already experienced one of the many ways that the company is leveraging AI technology to change the social media experience. Facebook isn’t the only brand name in social media using AI. For instance, Twitter and Instagram have both gravitated toward timeline displays that privilege an algorithm’s best guess of the content you’ll like most, rather than displaying content chronologically.

Still, Facebook is an industry leader in its creative application of AI, especially when it comes to figuring out what its users want to buy and selling that data to advertisers. One remarkable tool, called Deeptext, uses machine learning to read text posted on Facebook and approximate its meaning. It then applies that information to the task of matching users with advertisers who meet their needs, delivering the hyper-targeted advertisements that many people have come to associate with social media.

AI Can Help You Make Money 

The world of financial technology, driven by numbers but vulnerable to real-time changes, is a natural fit for AI solutions, and a bevy of tools that use it to master the markets are available to prove it. While many of these solutions are designed to help human investors make better decisions by recognizing obscure patterns in the mountains of undifferentiated data the stock market constantly generates, several are pitched at individual investors who have previously felt excluded from the exchanges because they lacked either the time to manage their own investments or the money to hire a professional financial advisor to guide their choices.

Now, platforms like Sofi, Betterment, and Wealthfront are locked in competition to provide the best computerized trading advice to anyone who wants to open an account. With some options, the minimum balance is an exceedingly approachable $0, making the stock market a more democratic place for small investors to make money.

It’s true that the AI future many people dream of, a world bustling with robot dogs and butlers, is a long way off. Still, AI is one of the most important technological advancements of the century, and it’s already changing the way you live today.