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Techweek: Innovation that’s good for the world

Techweek in New Zealand is upon us. This year’s theme is ‘Innovation that’s good for the world’ – which is an excellent opportunity to look at the positive impact and opportunity presented by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, says IBM's Isuru Fernando.

Much of the discussion on AI has painted a dark picture thanks to science fiction films and other popular culture, resulting in some fear and many misconceptions. Thankfully, the recent AI Forum of New Zealand research report has gone a long way towards reshaping that conversation.

At IBM we believe that AI is augmenting, not replacing human intelligence, and all around the world, we see evidence of AI as a force for good. Here are just a few of my favourite examples involving IBM Watson –  I hope the work inspires you as much as it does me.

AI + Health

Despite public awareness programs and efforts to address its prevalence, New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma skin cancer in the world – eclipsing Australia as the most dangerous place to be exposed to the sun – with 50 cases of melanoma per 100,000 people.

To tackle this deadly disease, IBM Research partnered with New Zealand company MoleMap. The goal is to help further advance the identification of melanoma using an AI system that learns by analysing millions of medical images and notes to help clinicians identify melanoma in its earliest stages.


AI + Social service

For someone with vision loss, a guide dog can offer independence, safety, and, companionship. These puppies with a purpose can be transformative, but not all puppies that take on the rigorous training program are suitable for a life of service. For the US-based non-profit organisation, Guiding Eyes, they can spend approximately US$50,000 to train a dog over two years, and only half of the dogs raised and trained will graduate as guide dogs or be chosen as dogs to breed.

By using Watson on the cloud, Guiding Eyes has analysed 500,000 medical records and 65,000 records on dog temperament. Based on a sample size of 105, by matching the characteristics and personality traits of trainers – with dogs’ temperament, medical and genetic data, Watson has been able to predict with 100 percent accuracy which guide dogs would successfully graduate from Guiding Eyes’ training.

AI + Environment

From underwater to outer space, IBM scientists around the world are using AI to help them discover new ways of protecting our planet. Imagine using cosmic data to support renewable energy. Or placing small, autonomous microscopes in bodies of water to monitor plankton. How about a personalised solar system in your back pocket?

You can learn more about their research here.

AI + Culture

Kia ora! Te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand and experiencing a resurgence in popularity among Māori and Non-Māori alike as government officials, public broadcasters and businesspeople increasingly weave it into everyday usage. Reobot is a kiwi chatbot designed to help learners practice conversing in te reo Māori. Powered by IBM Watson, Reobot understands what a user is saying and can respond appropriately.

“Reobot is currently set up for people who know a few words or are learning te reo Māori, and I’d suggest using it a little bit each day. It’s a way to converse more, build your confidence and keep what you’re learning at the front of your mind” says the co-founder of Reobot, Jason Lovell. You can chat to Reobot here.

AI + Education

Since 2016 IBM and Sesame Workshop have been working collaboratively to bring personalised learning to children around the world. The benefits of this style of learning are that teachers can share content that is specific to each student, including the educational challenges they face and the style that resonates with them most.

By assisting teachers and working with Sesame Street’s early childhood experts AI and IoT are helping kids be the best they can be.

AI + Art

While AI cannot replace the artist, it can be a muse or help people explore creativity in new ways. IBM has worked with musicians, museums, chefs, filmmakers and fashion designers. We’ve helped them to explore new creative frontiers, and today we are barely scratching the surface of the art of the possible.

So don’t give in to the fear – be curious, and start exploring how AI can make a difference in your world. It’s time for everyone to realise what a massive opportunity AI is for New Zealand to lift its productivity, and unleash a new age of knowing. Because AI is not just good for the world, it’s going to open up new opportunities to completely reshape it.

IBM will be participating in key industry events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There are also lots of family-friendly events nationwide, from robotic challenges to epic light festivals. You can check out the calendar here.

 Isuru Fernando is IBM's country analytics & artificial intelligence leader for New Zealand. He is on Twitter @wizzy.
This story first appeared on IBM's blog.

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