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Casting the Net much wider

In the coming days, the internet is set to become more personalised and intuitive. Shouvick Mukherjee writes.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2012 22:30 IST

The ongoing research into artificial intelligence (AI) is exploring the ‘emotional’ side of machines, something similar to what we saw in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi blockbuster Artificial Intelligence in which a robot longs to become ‘real’ in order to win the love of his (human) mother.

The internet today is witnessing a similar shift: search engines are becoming smarter: they are predicting, understanding and delivering what a user wants. In many ways, the internet works like our mind: it churns out ‘data’ 24x7, processes large amounts of information and answers our questions.

So wouldn’t it be great if the internet could recognise a user’s emotional state also? Say, for example, you arrive at work angry. Rather than asking you (mechanically) for the password to log into your email account, an emotionally-aware internet tells you a joke or suggests that you read a nice email first to lighten your mood.

Machine-learning algorithms, for example, learn from data, and the more data we feed to these machines, the more they learn. Today smart vehicles, home security systems and web-connected appliances are all becoming a part of a growing network of objects that create and exchange data about locations, behavioural patterns, movement, vibration, temperature, humidity and time among other things.

This combination of huge pools of data of prior web experiences, smart algorithms and extremely fast computating is taking personalisation to the next level. With broadband reaching a critical mass (in India, this is yet to happen) devices like television are now available with embedded ‘smarts’ into the sets. We are heading into a future where a television will no longer be an idiot box but an intelligent, interactive device. In fact, technologies like gesture control, voice command, motion and facial recognition are being incorporated into mobile phones, laptops, tablets and televisions.

Some of the most futuristic portrayals of technology involve conversations between humans and machines. Scientists now hope that an ‘emotional web’ will enable these machines to be more intuitive by responding to the emotional cues of the user and then tailoring its responses to them. Maybe that will be the next level of personalisation of the internet.

Shouvick Mukherjee is VP and CEO, Yahoo! India R&D
The views expressed by the author are personal