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Don’t be fooled: AI-powered tech still needs to prove its intelligence

If you were to wander through the halls at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018[1] (CES) this year, chances are that one of the phrases you will have heard most often is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is, it appears, this year’s IoT or Cloud. The hot buzzword that every company wants to associate itself with.

Welcome to the inaccurate age of AI

The term has been plastered on marketing material for hundreds of disparate gadgets: Samsung’s massive 8K TVs apparently use AI to upscale lower resolution images[2] for the big screen. Sony has created a new version of the Aibo robot dog[3], which this time promises more artificial intelligence. Travelmate’s robot suitcase will use AI to drive around and follow its owner wherever they go. Oh, and Kohler has invented Numi[4], a toilet that has Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in – though mercifully, it doesn’t appear to be doing any deep-learning analysis of your, umm, data.

The latest version of the Sony Aibo robotic dog was on show at CES 2018

(Image: © Sony)

There does appear to be something real at the heart of all of this marketing copy: it’s clear that it’s an exciting time in the tech industry, as entire product categories are being invented or transformed using these sorts of smart technologies. Products like Amazon’s Alexa, with its accurate voice recognition[5] would have been virtually unimaginable a decade earlier, at least outside of the realms of science fiction. And Google’s ability to pick out objects from photos would have seemed like witchcraft to companies that would previously have paid humans to do the tedious business of adding metadata to images.

But despite all this, it does leave me wondering: is artificial intelligence really what we should be calling this revolution? Because, well, these technologies really aren’t all that intelligent at all.

Sorting AI fact from AI fiction

It’s essentially a definitional problem: For some reason, the industry is hellbent on using AI when what is actually means is machine learning (ML). This is a much more narrow term, referring to what is essentially using trial and error to build a model that’s capable of guessing the answers to discrete questions very accurately.

For example, take image recognition: say you want to build a system that separates pictures of cats from pictures of dogs. All you have to do is feed a ML algorithm enough pictures of cats, telling the system they are cats, and then enough pictures of dogs, telling it they are dogs. It will then build a model of what patterns to look for and eventually, after enough training, you should be able to feed it an unlabelled image, and it will be able to make a fairly accurate guess as to which of the two animals is in the picture.

The trouble is that though this is very impressive, and has only been possible at scale over the last few years because of the collapsing cost and availability of processing power, it isn’t exactly ‘intelligence’, is it?

Beyond the buzzword

Intelligence, of the sort that humans have, is very different and more broadly defined. We’re capable of a wider set of skills. A great example of this comes from an industry-wide group called the AI Index, which is attempting to measure and benchmark progress in AI. In its 2017 report, it says[6]:

“[A] human who can read Chinese characters would likely understand Chinese speech, know something about Chinese culture and even make good recommendations at Chinese restaurants. In contrast, very different AI systems would be needed for each of these tasks.”

In other words, we’re a long way from the sort of generalised artificial intelligence that would be able to do these very different tasks. And we’re even further away from such an intelligence being able to not just carry out those tasks, but also wonder to itself why it is doing them.

Follow the money

So, given the obvious limitations of current technology, why is an entire industry obsessing over the term AI? Why is it suddenly so important? And why is every tech start-up at every major trade show touting its AI capabilities?

Perhaps the answer lies in this one chart (see below), which is again from the AI Index[7].

(Image: © aiindex.org)

Ah yes, that would explain it. If you can frame your start-up as a company that is dabbling in artificial intelligence, it appears as though the investment cash will come flooding in. Around $ 3bn has been invested in AI start-ups annually following an enormous increase around 2013.

But this doesn’t explain why we’re mislabelling. Why we’re referring to artificial intelligence rather than machine learning. My guess here is simply that AI sounds a whole lot sexier. Think about it, if your competitors are conjuring up images of Tony Stark’s Jarvis or Data from Star Trek, you don’t want to be caught talking about boring old, harder-to-market machine learning instead.

(Machine) learning to walk before we can run

In any case, I think it’s time to exercise more caution when throwing around the label artificial intelligence, and we should save it for when we truly have systems that are approaching a more generalised form of human-like intelligence so that we don’t end up with false or misleading expectations.

Given this real milestone is at least a number of years away, in the meantime I’m going to get back to work on building a machine learning system that can figure out how to easily separate the AI fact from AI fiction.


  1. ^ Consumer Electronics Show 2018 (www.techradar.com)
  2. ^ use AI to upscale lower resolution images (www.techradar.com)
  3. ^ Aibo robot dog (www.techradar.com)
  4. ^ Numi (www.techradar.com)
  5. ^ accurate voice recognition (www.techradar.com)
  6. ^ says (cdn.aiindex.org)
  7. ^ AI Index (aiindex.org)
  8. ^ CES 2018 may be over, but we honour the best of the best in TechRadar’s 2018 CES Awards (www.techradar.com)

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Solid Pine Dog Kennel (with Sloping Roof for Quick Water Runoff) – The Perfect Outdoor Den for your Dogs – Sale

This beautifully made, durable pine dog kennel from Ferplast is the perfect outdoor den for your dog. The sustainably produced, robust pine is completely varnished inside and out, making the Baita dog kennel especially durable against moisture that could easily damage untreated wood. The kennel is raised above the ground on four plastic feet, isolating it from the cold and damp, and keeping your dog safe and cosy in windy or wet weather. The subtle roof is slightly sloped, so that rain can flow off quickly without pooling and causing damage to the kennel. The roof can be folded open or locked closed using the robust hook fastenings. Even in strong winds the roof stays firm and secure, but when it’s time to clean out the kennel you can simply flip it open and get easy access to the interior. The entrance to the kennel is strengthened with an aluminium frame, protecting it from dogs who like to chew. Add a cushion or a blanket and your dog will be lovely and cosy inside this beautiful kennel from Ferplast.


  • Solid Pine Dog Kennel is made from sustainably sourced durable pine.
  • Comes with wind and weather proof varnish on exterior and interior.
  • Easy to fold open sloping roof for easy cleaning. L 102 x W 70 x H 66 cm
  • Equipped with sturdy hook fastenings for secure roof.
  • It has Four plastic feet for stability and isolation from damp ground.

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Wooden Large Dog Kennel with Felt Roofing – Great for Giving Your Dogs a Covered Place To Rest in Your Garden – Limited Price

Weights & Dimensions Overall: 94cm H x 138cm W x 90cm D Overall Product Weight: 40 Kilogram. Item needs to be weather treated within 3 months of purchase and once annually after that. Tools Needed for Assembly: Screwdriver, hammer, sharp knife, and drill (3mm drill bit)


  • Lifting lid with lid stay for easy access
  • Opening can be cut into front or end
  • Item is flat-packed, Mineral roofing felt
  • 1.2 cm Shiplap cladding, Size: Large
  • Suits one large or two small to medium sized dogs.

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LG is reportedly preparing a new LG V30 with added AI

The smartphone extravaganza that is Mobile World Congress[1] is coming up fast, and we’ve just got word of what LG might be planning for the show: an upgraded version of its LG V30[2] flagship with added artificial intelligence[3], possibly supplied by Google.

That’s according to a report in The Korea Herald[4], which states that the new phone is going to be called the V30+α or the V30 Alpha. Apparently it’s part of a new strategy from LG that’s going to see them continue to add new features and extra value to its existing handsets as it continues to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Other details are very thin on the ground – so thin in fact, that we don’t have anything else to tell you about this rumored new handset – but LG will want to have something to show off at MWC 2018 in Barcelona, so this seems like a plausible option.

Looking ahead

We’ve already heard reports that work on the LG G7[5] has been completely rebooted[6] as LG looks to make its next flagship the best that it can possibly be. With that in mind, we’re unlikely to see LG’s premier 2018 smartphone until much later in the year.

And indeed software could be the battleground where the smartphone manufacturers really slug it out over the next 12 months, with hardware designs now all looking so similar across the board. Would you be tempted to buy a new smartphone if its on-board OS was smarter than everyone else’s[7]?

Google is being tipped as the company providing the LG V30 Alpha with its extra AI smarts, but we’d expect Google to save its best stuff for the Pixel range[8]. Whatever the truth of the matter, we should find out when MWC 2018 kicks off at the end of February.

Via Android Central[10]


  1. ^ Mobile World Congress (www.techradar.com)
  2. ^ LG V30 (www.techradar.com)
  3. ^ artificial intelligence (www.techradar.com)
  4. ^ a report in The Korea Herald (www.koreaherald.com)
  5. ^ LG G7 (www.techradar.com)
  6. ^ completely rebooted (www.techradar.com)
  7. ^ smarter than everyone else’s (www.techradar.com)
  8. ^ the Pixel range (www.techradar.com)
  9. ^ LG V30 will be available in bold pink later this year – but it’s not for everyone (www.techradar.com)
  10. ^ Android Central (www.androidcentral.com)

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