Artificial Intelligence is something you likely interact with more than you think, from the friendly messages which pop up on your favourite site to the suggestions as you type an email or do a Google Search and even the shows recommended by Netflix at the end of a long day.
These tools have also been leveraged by marketing campaigns in recent years, from creating compelling interactions with brands via chatbots at any time of the day or night to advanced personalisation, ad curation and behaviour prediction.
AI is finding a new foothold in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. These systems are ideal for processing vast amounts of data, breaking them down into a form which humans can use to further their work. Together with a penchant for pattern recognition, this makes AI of vital importance at a time of information overload, and when human resources are stretched thin.
Here are just a few examples of how AI is being used in the current crisis.
Chatbots Fight Disinformation
The UK government has teamed up with WhatsApp to deliver an accessible, AI driven tool which provides information to anxious citizens and should help reduce those flocking to doctors and emergency rooms. It’s all about combating the spread of disinformation, and anyone can access the service on +44 7860 064422. Here’s an interesting interview with one of the team who built it.
News of the Coronavirus outbreak has been spreading like wildfire since January, but AI got there on December 31st 2019. That’s when Canadian company Bluedot, which specialises in protecting people from infectious diseases, first sent out word of a possible outbreak. Using sophisticated AI and machine learning, their technology scans countless news reports in 65 languages, noticing patterns in vast data sets. Human analysis is still very much a part of the equation, with a dedicated team of medical professionals who successfully predicted the spread of the virus after the initial cases in China, all vital information in the fight to end community transmission.
AI and Diagnosis
AI isn’t just useful for diving into endless research papers, it’s also right there on the frontlines of patient triage. A new study produced in partnership between teams in China and the USA has found that an AI tool can help to predict which patients will go on to have the most severe symptoms and will need care in a hospital environment. The system tracked statistics across dozens of patients from two Chinese hospitals in January 2020 and found similarities across those who became severely ill. The more information this tool can crunch, the better the predictions will become for future patients.
Ericsson Joins the Fight
Here’s an interesting example of what AI resources can do, with Swedish telecoms company Ericsson bringing in more than 300 of their workers from around the world to help process the CORD-19 dataset. This is a free open resource of more than 33,000 (and counting) scholarly articles about the Coronavirus which needs to be parsed for any information which can be used in the current fight. That’s too huge for any human to grasp, but Ericsson and others are breaking down the tasks and setting AI bloodhounds on the scent.
This is more AI adjacent but can also give some power back to those who are staying at home but want to do their part in combating the virus. Folding@home is a fascinating project, born almost 20 years ago with the goal of using distributed computing to power complex simulations and research. Basically this means dialling into computers from all over the world to use their processors while they’re otherwise dormant. Back in 2007, it even harnessed PlayStation 3 consoles to become the largest such network in the world. As of March 30th 2020, more than one million systems around the world are running the software, helping to power some of the massive AI computations which are working on solutions to the Coronavirus. If you have a fast computer, you can download it here.
Artificial Intelligence is working around the world to fight back against the current crisis, and the best thing you can do to help is stay home, look after yourself and wash your hands!