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Artificial Intelligence

The new age of artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is entering a new phase as a discipline, opening up new fields with real-world benefits.

In nature, adaptation has always been the key to survival and evolution. It’s hardly surprising that technology has adopted a similar approach, creating algorithms that are capable of interpreting, evaluating and learning from external data, and then using that information to complete specific goals through flexible adaptation.

Though the study of artificial intelligence began midway through last century, it has undergone several waves of development since then. Contemporary machine-learning capabilities that are generally classified as AI now include understanding human speech, high-level strategic game systems (for example, chess), autonomously operating cars, military simulations, and intelligent routing in content delivery networks.

AI’s transformative power

In fact, the last one already unpins vast tranches of the Internet, making decisions every micro-second that streamline and speed up processing times — and facilitating everything from video streaming to software downloads and caching.

The future of self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles (AVs) is also likely to have a major impact, not only for private vehicle ownership but for public transport systems and long-distance trucking, which could spell positive change for labour costs, fuel efficiency, traffic congestion, environmental impact and urban planning.

Unifying a nation around AI strategy

Looking to the future of artificial intelligence in Abu Dhabi, the Department of Health was quick to launch an AI policy and create the AI Lab, a platform where it collaborates with service providers and tech companies to develop, test and launch AI-powered solutions focused on wellness and prevention, chronic disease management, clinical care and regulatory management.

The AI Lab’s first project was an app designed to help people live healthier lives, seamlessly syncing fitness trackers, personalised coaching and data collection in its interactive platform.

It also launched the Cognitive Virtual Assistant (CVA), which gives patients easy access to information, answering queries in Arabic and English and destined, in the near future, to encompass all Department of Health services.

Over in the education sector, Abu Dhabi also announced, in October 2019, the launch of the first standalone academic institution in the world dedicated solely to the study of artificial intelligence.

Abu Dhabi’s world first in AI learning

Based at Masdar City, the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) offers a state-of-the-art environment, supporting graduate-level MSc and Ph.D. degree programmes in core AI components including machine learning, computer vision and natural language processing for local and international students.

Elsewhere, local education startup Alef Education has already grown its AI-based digital learning platform from a micro-school of eight students to implementation in 140 schools nationwide and in the USA, servicing a total of 50,000 students, in three years.

According to Alef’s CEO Geoffrey Alphonso, its scope is both global and humanitarian: “Our future vision is to each a billion lives in the next 10 years, and to make education accessible to everybody.”

Systems change

Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 defines the current state of AI development as “artificial narrow intelligence” — that is, technology focused on solving problems for a specific set of situations and industries. The company’s near-term projects tackle autonomous driving, along with medical robotics, fraud detection and high-frequency trading, as well as cognitive tasks such as voice analytics, image recognition, text mining and video understanding, for government, healthcare, finance, aviation and smart cities.

G42 has also leveraged its technology to play a significant role in fighting Covid-19 – establishing a massive throughput laboratory to speed up the detection of the disease; manufacturing essential PPE; conducting research into new vaccines and drug therapies; and using its advanced AI capabilities to map and predict trends and virus mutations in the outbreak.

It also partnered with Chinese pharmaceutical group Sinopharm CNBG to conduct the world’s first Phase III trials of the inactivated Covid-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi, under the administration of the UAE Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Department of Health Abu Dhabi (DOH).

However, its brief doesn’t stop there. The firm is also working towards the future definition of AI, where have the capacity to handle general tasks in a similar way to humans, which it has dubbed “the age of artificial general intelligence”.

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