4 most interesting Artificial Intelligence breakthroughs of 2020

2020 is one year most people won’t forget so easily whether for good or for bad. One unique feature of the year, however, is that it spawned unique problems and provoked unique solutions. 

The potency of technology was really put to the test in 2020. It proved that humans are more reliant on technology that we thought we were. The digitization of most aspects of our lives exposed easier and effective ways of running things . 

The pandemic is undoubtedly the highlight of 2020. A lot of tech corporations were afforded the chance to flex some serious tech muscles. Technology kept a lot of things running while the world was on lockdown. Our reliance on the internet was unprecedented. Not only did it provide a means of running daily activities, it was a way of maintaining social connections.

The jaw dropping numbers raked in by some tech companies shows that technology rescued us in many ways. From keeping us sane by keeping us connected and helping us earn by keeping businesses afloat, to directly helping in the fight against COVID-19. 

Artificial intelligence is one tech that has not only positioned itself as a piece of technology, but also as a part of our lives. Applications of AI, prior to 2020, were vast. It had been helping before the pandemic but it became more important and saw more breakthroughs in 2020. AI had astounding breakthroughs in healthcare, business and education. It equally had its lapses. Nonetheless, it would undoubtedly form an integral part of human existence here on out. 

Here are some of the most interesting AI stories of 2020.

Using AI for COVID-19 side effects

Some time in November, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority), paid U.K software company, Genpact, £1.5 million to create an AI tool that could sift through a lot of the reports that entailed adverse reaction to COVID-19 vaccines. According to the reports, the AI will be able to sift through massive amounts of ADR (adverse drug reaction) reports to help make sure no detail is missed. 

Why this tool matters.

The U.K is preparing for a widespread vaccination. The vaccines are relatively new and will be administered to a lot of people with unique immune systems. The large amount of data that will  need processing will be monumental. Not only will it take time if it were done by humans, but there would also be errors. 

The administering of the vaccines needs to be accelerated. In the process, important details need to be properly analyzed without errors. The creation and administering of the vaccines in record time would not have been possible without AI machines such as this. Though a few number of people have gotten vaccinated, AI played a crucial role leading up to this point.

AI solves 50-year-old science problem

Protein folding is one problem that has been running circles round scientists for many years. The specifics of this problem are quite complex but according to scientists, solving it could play a major role in developing cures for diseases such as cancer. The AI program known as Alpha Fold, created by Google, claims to be able to solve this problem. Alpha Fold will be able to unfold over 200 million proteins present in some diseases, thereby, essentially helping scientists to understand how they work and invariably developing a cure. We can only hope to hear more positive news about Alpha Wolf and how it can help cure serious diseases. 

Robots taking over construction sites. 

The “men at work” sign which is usually seen at construction sites might someday read “robots at work”. AI didn’t stop at healthcare this year, it took its expertise to construction sites too. This time, AI isn’t doing brain work like calculating or sifting through loads of information, it is getting very physical. In an article by WIRED, a company called Canvas has built AI powered robots that could work at construction sites and work just as well as humans. Tasks such as drywalling, which requires a lot of skills due to its artistic nature, can be easily done by the robot. The robot has already been used at different construction sites but it is still very far from mainstream adoption. Seeing robots working alongside humans at construction sites could be a trend in coming years. 

Your vacuum cleaner could be listening to you.

While AI displayed laudable exploits on how it could be of help to humans, it also revealed a bit of its dangerous side. Our privacy as regards the use of AI is a subject that has been debated in no small amount. Household electronics are now built to be able to communicate with each other. A vacuum cleaner now has a microphone that could serve as a listening device for hackers. 

A research carried out by a team from the National University of Singapore has demonstrated that devices that use Lidar technology, can be used to send sound signals without even having a microphone. The Lidar technology helps the vacuum detect objects and move round them. 

Now that most of our work is done online  and from home, this could be a very serious security challenge. Business information shared online might be picked up and compromise a business operation within seconds. 

A lot of breakthroughs are currently happening in the world of AI. 2020 recorded some impressive AI applications. Whilst some of these breakthroughs are still in their early stages, wide adoption in subsequent years is very plausible. 

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