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5 Weird Problems AI Could Soon Solve

From beer production to cleaning up the Pacific Ocean, artificial intelligence is changing the world in unexpected ways

Marshall Lemon
April 04 2019

Popular entertainment would have us believe that automation and artificial intelligence are two technological developments that might soon destroy us all. In reality, AI could actually fix a number of challenges that humans have been unable to resolve. Here are five examples of unusual problems that artificial intelligence is already beginning to address.

Producing the best-tasting beer

Many people are anxious about AI, but robots may eventually earn our trust by figuring out how to serve up great drinks. Several brewers are experimenting with AI technology that enhances the taste and overall quality of beer, potentially culminating in the creation of alcoholic beverages personalized to your exact preferences.

One trend-setter in the robotic booze industry is IntelligentX, which produces Black AI, Golden AI, Pale AI, and Amber AI. Each can includes a URL link to a survey that feeds results to a machine learning platform. This data is aggregated and translated into recipe recommendations used by brewers to improve each beer variety. With 80% of customers responding to surveys, IntelligentX already has 100,000 data points to work with.

And IntelligentX isn’t the only one. Carlsberg is a Copenhagen-based company that brews 1,000 beer samples per day and analyzes the reception to each recipe. Virginia’s Champion Brewing took data from the ten best and ten worst rated American IPAs and formulated a new recipe using machine learning. One Australian research team even created a robot capable of pouring drinks topped with the perfect amount of foam.

It remains to be seen whether science can create robots that will eventually share a drink with us humans.

Targeting illegal wildlife poachers

AI doesn’t only improve business and beer making capabilities – it can also help our efforts at wildlife conservation. Humans already use computer models to optimize wildlife corridors, allowing species like grizzly bears to avoid human settlements while travelling. But AI can also address the immensely challenging task of stopping poachers from reaching endangered species.

Teamcore, a research group from USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, is using AI to tackle such issues. One example is the PAWS project (Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security), which analyzes data points on poacher activity and predicts the most effective routes for ranger patrols to find hotspots, snares, and traps. Testing at Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park detected higher rates of poacher activity along designated routes, allowing rangers to allocate their resources strategically.

Over time, programs like PAWS could allow wildlife conservation groups to stabilize and even re-cultivate critically endangered species around the world. And that isn’t the only environmental cause AI is working on.

Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a horrific island of trash accumulated from around the world by ocean currents and centered at a particular Pacific location. Thankfully, cleanup projects like Plastic Tide have a strategy to tackle this problem, and AI is playing a key role.

One major problem hindering cleanup efforts is the patch’s sheer size. While the patch is relatively stationary, it’s also 1.6 million square kilometers in size and growing, making it difficult to even map the region. Plastic Tide developed a drone camera system that takes thousands of aerial photos and feeds the results into an AI algorithm. This makes it easier to distinguish trash from marine life and determine where in the world the litter is coming from.

Combined with tagging efforts from volunteers, Plastic Tide aims to create an open-source map to monitor the progress of ongoing cleanup efforts. This positions AI as a first but critical step toward a larger solution.

Optimizing electrical grids

As amazing as today’s technologies can be, they also increase the amount of energy our society consumes each day. Strangely enough, the solution might be more technology. Several companies are using AI to monitor and forecast energy rates, allowing customers and businesses to take advantage of efficient energy solutions. Google’s DeepMind is one notable example, reducing energy use by 40% throughout the company’s server farms.

Yet even here, AI can go much further. Some companies are experimenting with AI-controlled electrical grids that automatically adjust to accommodate different energy loads. DeepMind is at the forefront here yet again, thanks to a partnership with the UK National Grid to manage the country’s electrical system. Once integrated, DeepMind will monitor everything from weather forecasts to search traffic, creating predictive models for energy demand.

Improving the accuracy of medical diagnoses while reducing burnout

The human body is incredibly complex when viewed as a series of medical data points, even for trained professionals. Making precise diagnoses can be a major challenge, but thankfully AI is capable of spotting patterns that doctors sometimes cannot. AI applications within the medical field are wide-ranging, especially in radiology where minute details can completely change a diagnosis. Researchers have already developed an algorithm capable of detecting pneumonia with higher accuracy than human doctors. We’ve also seen progress in AI-powered clinical decision support systems and medical consultation apps on smartphones.

But perhaps the greatest overall benefit AI will provide is preventing doctor burnout. Today, 50% of health care professionals experience emotional exhaustion, interpersonal disengagement, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. This burnout affects overworked doctors and is a direct contributor to medical errors. Were AI to take over the monotonous and exhausting procedural elements, doctors would be free to focus on core medical decisions and procedures, better serving their patients overall.

Experts have long suggested that AI will change the world, but the full range of impacts it will have – big and small – are constantly unfolding. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that our smart future will be a fascinating thing to behold.

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Marshall Lemon

Marshall Lemon is a writer, editor, librarian, and game designer. As the Content Marketing Manager at Fluid PR Group, he helps businesses craft engaging stories within the context of well-researched industry data. He lives in London, Ontario with his wife and two adorable puppers.

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