In preparation for our upcoming eBook on the future of tech, we sat down with Reimar Hantke, Solution Architect and Product Owner at AVL, to discuss the immediate and future impact of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Robotics on our lives and the world around us.
Beaglecat: Do you think that Virtual Reality will hit mainstream in the next 10 years? What about Artificial Intelligence?
Reimar Hantke: The VR gaming market will surely grow, as ”gamers,” for example, will have absolutely no problem in wearing VR headsets. Virtual Reality may even make medical operations easier! On the other hand, I see Augmented Reality as a good idea that has already been available for years, if you come to think of it.
Nowadays, the question on everyone’s minds is: Who is using it? Some technology early-adopters are using augmented reality to identify various points of interest when traveling in urban and natural environments. When buying a new car for example, you can add the option of displaying the navigational information on the windshield, thus making driving safer and more intuitive. All in all, I think AR is definitely not a mass market product because it’s still only able to cater for the needs of certain niche markets, and not for the needs of everyone, at least not at the time being.
On the other hand, if we look at AI, things are quite different. AI is already around us and available to everyone. “To everyone?”, you would ask. Well, yes. When using Siri or Cortana – AI is used to understand what you are saying and to offer the appropriate answer. When you send a query to Google, the results will be displayed based on a machine learning AI process. With all that amount of data and details, entirely pure algorithmic solutions would not be able to provide the answers that users expect.
I used to work in the Search Engine Optimization industry so I know that Google has been providing results based on AI learning processes for years now. This is how it works: SEO agencies earn money by observing search results with big server farms, obtain the search results and then try to identify patterns. Businesses usually buy this SEO expertise and use it to reach their goals. Nevertheless, Google continuously changes the results by providing regular algorithm updates (like Penguin, for example) and the cycle repeats itself.
Therefore, in order to efficiently implement SEO today you would have to invest in more that search engine page results. You would probably have to invest in an AI, a machine learning solution, in order to truly understand what Google is doing with its own AI approach. Sadly, in order to start developing your own AI you would have to invest too much money and brainpower and that doesn’t currently represent a solution from my point of view.
On a different note, in the gaming industry, AI has already reached ”art” status. Google launched AlphaGO in March 2016 – the most advanced AI GO player. With the new machine learning system the AI developed new play strategies, which caught the human player off guard. Thus the AI managed to beat the best GO player in the World.
At this point, I can only predict that AI use cases will only increase during the next couple of years.
BC: We’ve seen so many movies in which robots took over the world. Would you say that they are absolute nonsense or this is what the world is heading toward?
R.H.: Robots have been in use in the industry for years. So the question is: how fast will they be used at home? There are already home robots available: robots to cut the lawn or to clean the floor, for instance. These robots work automatically and with algorithms that are adapted to the task they have to do. Without arms and legs.
The first robots with arms and legs are set to be used in Asia to interact with people. They will mostly be used to talk to people and help them by providing all sorts of answers. There are also robots available to play football. But today this is more of a scientific use case. They will not be able to compete against Bayern München within the next years.
What I expect is that we will have more robots helping us at physical work – these will not have arms and legs – and more robots helping us with AI which could look like humans, with a head, a face providing optical feedback, arms and legs to make the communication easier in direct human interactions.
BC: Do you see as positive or as negative the fact that connected devices will reduce human effort to a minimum?
R.H.: Connected devices will help us out with things that we often do manually, as well as support us with helpful information. For instance, we have plenty of examples of home automation – instances when the central heating at home is automatically turned on when you leave the office – and even examples of traffic jam measurement or car-to-car communication.
But in the end it is I who decides: I want to open the window NOW because I need fresh air after having worked for a couple of hours. Or I decide that I want to sit in front of my chimney NOW with my wife or my friends to talk… Subjective and sentiment-based decisions and analysis form the foundation of human behaviour and will not be supported by connected devices which only have a limited amount of physical sensors.
BC: When do you see the mobile app market reaching saturation and how do you think the world will look like then? Will we have apps for literally everything?
R.H.: How many apps do you have installed and how many do you actually use? I expect that only the most used apps with a good business case will outlive all the other millions of apps that nobody uses and that are clearly going to disappear.
App usage will change rapidly. For instance, I do not need a navigational app on my smartphone. I need the turn by turn information and not all of that information needs to be displayed on my smartphone. A voice telling me “take a right turn now” or the map displayed on the car’s windscreen will do.
That’s one of the reasons why smartwatches will develop further as an easier interface to request and access this information. If, in the meantime, we also come up with a solution to the battery problem, of course.
Let’s take another look at Google. It provides more and more direct results and direct answers – instead of displaying only links. Google already provides translations, directions, schedules, prices, etc.
So the future of tech has already started with Siri, Cortana and smartwatches, using a device connecting you ONLY with speech control and tactile feedback to one personalized, AI- based cloud core. Having this as common technology, there is no more need for a smartphone with many apps. Siri and Cortana already have the capability to replace almost all of the navigation, weather, calendar, communication and search Apps. Ok, the gaming and entertainment apps are not yet covered by Siri and Cortana…
BC: In your opinion, how will the world look like in 2030?
R.H.: That’s a complex question. I hope that we will solve the major differences in the world between the poor and the rich, so that the military conflicts will be minimised. I also hope that we understand that the resources on Earth are not endless and we dramatically improve the sustainability in all of our processes.
If we solve this, we will have the possibility to have an easier life with better medical treatment, digital assistants for, hopefully, the majority of the population living on our Blue Planet.
Reimar Hantke is Solution Architect and Product Owner at AVL, a company that develops powertrain systems with internal combustion engines as well as instrumentation and test systems.