by Dan Roberts
Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human-like tasks. It provides us with human-like interactions with computers and helps us with difficult decision making.
AI works by super-speed processing of large amounts of information (data), allowing the software to learn automatically from patterns or features in the data, and then to predict likely outcomes. In other words, it imitates the learning and decision-making functions of the human brain. But it is much faster, often more reliable, and it requires minimal human intervention. AI still requires human interaction, however, so it is not ready to completely replace us. Instead, it will allow us to be more efficient in our work and daily life, especially those of us who are blind and visually impaired.
AI relies heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. Deep learning is a type of machine learning that trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as recognizing speech, identifying images or making predictions. Natural language processing helps computers understand, interpret, and manipulate human language. This is what helps computers communicate with humans by reading text, hearing and interpreting speech, recognizing emotion, and determining which of those parts are important.
AI is in the process of incorporation into many devices for blind and visually impaired people. Such devices include self-driving vehicles, reading machines, face recognition software, and navigation software. In addition, the capabilities of AI in tandem with eye care, diagnosis, and treatment are being dramatically realized, with new uses seemingly being discovered daily.
The full potential of AI is yet to be seen. In the areas of eye care and low vision rehabilitation, we can look forward to it playing a major role in helping to:
- Ensure drug safety by enabling pharmaceutical manufacturers to quickly determine the quality, efficacy, and safety of new products
- Get new therapies to market faster
- Speed up clinical trials
- Ensure more accurate clinical diagnoses
- Ensure optimum treatment choices by doctors
- Make more precise decisions about optimal daily living choices
Thinkers like Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and the late Stephen Hawking have warned about AI getting out of hand. Control, after all, is usually enjoyed by the smartest among us, so who wouldn’t worry about machines that are more intelligent than we are? The technology discussed here, however, has been of the “narrow AI” variety, wherein humans set the limits of the machines, keeping them subordinate to us and our whims. There is room for concern about “general AI” machines that might actually approach consciousness, but that is a topic for another time and place. For now, we can enjoy and benefit from the evolution of yet another direction science is taking to make the world a safer and more accessible place.
Resources used in the writing of this article: