Part of Huawei's stand on day two at the Ai Everything event at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
It’s a First World problem we can all relate to: you're in line for ice cream or some other sweet treat. Your mind is working at a million miles an hour as it pours over the dizzying number of choices. Pecan? Vanilla? Mango sorbet? Decisions, decisions. Suddenly, you’re at the front of the counter. It's your turn to order. And... your mind goes blank. Everyone else in line is waiting for you as you struggle to so much as utter a syllable.
Wouldn’t it be better of machines could make such choices for us? That was part of the reasoning, apparently, behind one of the most interesting innovations on display at the aptly-named Ai Everything event at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Wednesday, May 1.
The way the technology, at Microsoft's stand, worked was fairly straightforward: you stand in line, and a camera scans your face. Then, and AI program recommends what flavour of ice cream you should order based on your facial expression (this writer was told to try cookies and cream based on their apparently surprised look - though it should be noted the writer's copious amounts of facial hair may have fooled the AI into thinking it was looking at a Sasquatch or some other mythical, ape-like hairy beast instead of a homo sapien). “Practical” AI? You bet.
Practicality was one of the dominant themes of the day throughout the halls. At almost every booth, a bevy of international conglomerates and local startups showcased the ways in which artificial intelligence is impacting – and improving – people’s everyday lives.
Take, for instance, Huawei’s stand. The company (the only major telecommunications company at the show) had on display a number of use cases in which its innovations are benefiting populations, with helpful staff on hand who were able to easily explain exactly how.
Huawei senior director of global marketing at the intelligent computing business department, Robin Shi.
Speaking at a roundtable event, Robin Shi, Huawei senior director of global marketing at the intelligent computing business department, said one reason for Huawei’s success is the sheer amount of resources the company has poured into research and development (R & D). He said out of more than 188,000 Huawei employees worldwide, about 80,000 worked in R & D. Further, the company spent about 394 billion Chinese yuan (about US$58.5 billion) on R & D last year – placing it fifth overall globally in total R & D spending (behind only Samsung, Google, Volkswagen and Microsoft).
But aside from innovating, Shi also said Huawei had also achieved success through the versatile deployment of innovations; some of these innovations, he added, could help telecommunications companies run operations more efficiently, and at lower cost.
The opposite of practical, of course, is impractical - and Shi also discussed how Huawei is prepared to deal with the most impractical situations. Narrating a video shown to assembled media, he discussed how some Huawei equipment can literally survive hurricanes, blizzards, being set on fire, and even extremely intense electrical attacks. Was Shi showing the world's most indestructible computers? They very well could be.
And yet that still wasn't all. Shi also talked about how Huawei’s AI can help with carriers smart cities (such as smarter - and safer - traffic management), finance, energy, health, manufacturing and more - things that affect all of us daily.
“Huawei’s open to work with partners,” said Shi.
Elsewhere at the event, enough robots roamed about to make up their own robotic team - and fill a good portion of the stands, too. Near the media registration desks, Pepper – a robot deployed by the likes of Dubai-based telco du – played jazz tunes and danced around as visitors walked past (this writer admittedly doesn't know much about jazz, but while Pepper’s music wasn’t quite up to snuff with the likes of the late, great Frank Sinatra, it wasn't too shabby, either). Elsewhere, another robot mimicked people’s facial expressions a la the repeated attempts of Brent Spiner’s robotic Lieutenant Commander Data in the late 1980s/early 1990s sci-fi television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Dubai Police’s robotic law enforcement officer kept the corridors safe. There was even an autonomous shuttle bus that could transport people from one part of the sprawling World Trade Centre complex to another.
Like day one, there were also plenty of fascinating talks, discussions, debates and more with some of the world’s best and brightest minds in the fields of AI and robotics. Addressing an audience of global AI visionaries, entrepreneurs, academics, industry giants, and government leaders and futurists, China-headquartered Tencent’s Seng Yee Lau, senior executive vice president and chair of group marketing and global brands, delivered a keynote address calling for the creation of a framework and implementation of AI for good.
Welcomed by H.E. Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Lau highlighted that “AI for good” is an extension of the idea of using technology for good. He reiterated that humans will play a critical role in AI, and the principles of humanity will shape new possibilities for social development and elevate the quality of life of people around the world.
“We should be aware that when assessing AI’s contribution to realising the goals of sustainable development, the pivotal word is ‘Artificial Intelligence’ – it is not about ‘intelligence’ but about ‘artificial,’” Lau said.
“Responsible AI is a reflection of human intervention. AI can be a very powerful tool, but it must be directed by humans and only then AI can reach its full potential for driving sustainability.”
Not to mention reach its full potential for driving practical innovation that improves people’s lives.