Algorithms to sniff out pollution and train ballerinas, AI is changing the world


The hot topic in the tech industry during the past few years has been big data. Now, the conversation includes what meaningful changes can be made based on the data.

“Data is only useful if you can find some way to analyze it, highlight the trends, or be able to provide a surface on top of what the data’s telling you to do,” said Lila Ibrahim, chief operations officer at Coursera Inc.

During Intel’s “AI for Good – Unleashing Potential for Everyone” panel held at the South by Southwest event in Austin, TX, Ibrahim was joined by Dawn Nafus, Ph.D., anthropologist at Intel Corp. and author of “Self-Tracking” and “Quantified: Biosensing Technologies in Everyday Life”; Pratool Bharti, artificial intelligence graduate student ambassador, Intel; and Kaye Gardner-O’Kearny, director of corporate higher education at Intel, who served as the panel moderator.

The panel members discussed the ways that AI has been beneficial to them in their particular fields, as well as speculating about where they see AI going in the future.

South by Southwest is being covered by theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio. (*Disclosure below.)

Putting data to work in science and the arts

Regarding the civic uses of AI, Nafus has been working with an air quality group. They have very good instrumentation, and they’ve spent the last year getting their heads around “what is this data actually telling us? How can we represent that data, what can we do with it?” said Nafus.

The group has run a pilot using wearables and health tracking to see whether users’ blood oxygen or blood pressure levels spike when there’s pollution in the air. This has led to them asking questions such as, “this spike, when it’s these two chemicals and it exceeds this threshold, it looks a lot like the point source polluter,” Nafus explained.

One of the audience members made the point that when we think of AI, we usually think of technology applications. As a filmmaker, he was wondering about applications to the arts. Gardner-O’Kearny brought up a recent project where Intel partnered with a ballet company, putting wristbands on the dancers. They programmed the algorithms so that the dancers generated their own music as they danced.

“You’re starting to see multimedia [artists] and musicians figure out how to use that data behind the scenes to make their realities come true,” said Gardner-O’Kearny.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the South by Southwest (SXSW). (*Disclosure: Intel sponsors some SXSW segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Neither Intel nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

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