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Artificial Intelligence rebooting key services

Those who think of artificial intelligence, or AI, as science fiction will be disappointed. In the end, a robot will not try to kill us all and rule the earth. Actually, AI can do a world of good; its earliest adopter in India is Manipal Hospitals, which will use it in oncology.

business Updated: Dec 20, 2015 01:01 IST
Suveen Sinha
AI is what makes a computer do more than what it is programmed for, to discover and think for itself.
AI is what makes a computer do more than what it is programmed for, to discover and think for itself.(Shutterstock Image)

Those who think of artificial intelligence, or AI, as science fiction will be disappointed. In the end, a robot will not try to kill us all and rule the earth. Actually, AI can do a world of good; its earliest adopter in India is Manipal Hospitals, which will use it in oncology.

In the real world, AI is what makes a computer do more than what it is programmed for, to discover and think for itself. It comes in handy in analysing data.

India has one oncologist for every 1,600 patients.

Many patients are internet-savvy and want to know how a certain research paper would influence their treatment.

This year saw 130 research papers on cancer published every day. It is not possible for a doctor to study and analyse all of them, and all the other data already out there.

So Manipal partnered with IBM to bring Watson, its cognitive computing platform, another name for AI, to India. Watson, an early global leader in the field, can analyse thousands of papers and mountains of data on each type of cancer — of which there are hundreds — and suggest the most appropriate treatment.

“Watson has already read 15 million pages on cancer. It is a humble assistant to our doctors, an assistant who does not sleep and has no ego,” says Ajay Bakshi, CEO of Manipal Health Enterprises.

It’s not just about health care. There is a company in India, which wouldn’t be named, which is using AI for personality recognition. All it needs is two handwritten paragraphs to analyse your personality. This can be useful in several fields.

Take wealth management. A human wealth manager would know his client’s risk appetite and investment preference. But AI can analyse social behaviour and other likes and dislikes to suggest a far more favoured portfolio.

No wonder, all the front-line Indian software companies are dabbling in AI. TCS has developed Ignio and Wipro has Holmes. At Infosys, as CEO Vishal Sikka looks to earn $2 billion from technology and product platforms by 2020, AI is one of the three he is building; analytics and automation are the other two.

“Today, 80% of data goes unused, is thrown away. Traditional forms of computing cannot cope with the data explosion. It requires an entirely new form of computing, hence AI,” says Vanitha Naryanan, IBM’s India head.

Indian start-ups, too, have joined the bandwagon. Vinay Kumar, having done research in nano technology at IIT Bombay, has set up Arya.ai, which provides the platform for companies to build intelligent robots. “In three to four years, everyone should have an intelligent robot as a personal assistant,” says Kumar.

A few days ago, some of the biggest names in California’s Silicon Valley — Tesla’s Elon Musk, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel — pledged $1 billion to support OpenAI, a non-profit firm focusing on the positive human impact of AI.

Musk has also expressed concern over the risks that AI could pose to humanity if mismanaged, such as Terminator-type killer robots.

Kumar of Arya.ai says in a few years intelligent robots could conduct interviews just as well as journalists. Now, that is as frightening a thought as killer robots.