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AI tech at tipping point

AI tech at tipping point

May 2, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have reached a tipping point of maturity, ready for widespread application across all domains of work and life, Artificial Intelligence Forum New Zealand (AIFNZ) executive director Ben Reid says.

AI is being increasingly used to make lives easier and more productive. The potential of AI can be found across every facet of society, including business, entertainment, finance, health, manufacturing and more, he says.

Reid was commenting today following the release of AIFNZ’s 108-page research report. The report says in the near future, adoption of AI technologies will be a key driver of change and innovation in New Zealand.

There are considerable societal implications of AI, including ethical concerns, detecting bias, accountability and the changing workforce. All of which, New Zealand must address.

A key challenge for New Zealand is that there is not enough general AI awareness, including what it can help achieve in business and society, and the risks of not adopting it, Reid says.

“If New Zealand fails to act on the opportunities identified in this report, it will likely lead to increased competitive pressures.

“The New Zealand tech sector is the country’s fastest growing sector and third largest exporter and there is a clear opportunity for the sector to develop AI based technology and export it.

“New Zealand AI based businesses currently include Soul Machines, Ohmio Automation, FaceMe,, Active Associate and Xtracta.

“Historically, New Zealanders have been early tech adopters and our nation is considered by many international firms as a good early test market. While technology needs to be tested at scale, New Zealand's size, time zone and geographical isolation enables more controlled testing at early stages of a product’s life cycle.

“Companies that adopt AI may well be very successful, both locally and on the world stage. New Zealand needs to urgently attract AI talent including specialists in mathematics, computer science, data science and we need to create specialised artificial Intelligence qualifications.

“In healthcare and other social services, a certain level of social licence will need to be developed before the population at large are comfortable with AI driven services.

“At the same time, most AI will remain invisible to most consumers, in the way that AI for current online searches and maps is.

“Advanced robotic AI systems, such as nanny robots or personal robotic assistants are not expected to become mainstream for quite some time.

“Living with a robot will require a significant social licence gained through other successful AI deployments, before the average citizen will be comfortable with it. Opportunities for government AI is set to revolutionise public service delivery. It can improve the efficiency of government services, tackle large social issues like poverty, inequality, the environment and potentially increase people’s standard of living.

“There are just so many applications of AI in our daily lives, for example, Martin the wine chatbot from New Zealand company Wine-Searcher has learnt how to recommend wine selections based on the user’s description of either grape preference or which food they are pairing the wine with,” Reid says.

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