At the start of the new year, the Las Vegas desert was crawling with self-driving cars, autonomous drones and virtual reality simulators. But the most impressive technological advancements on display during CES 2016 were largely invisible to the naked eye.
That’s because these tools, devices and technologies depend on the advancement of their underlying software, namely deep learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing and big data.
Though they don’t make for sexy headlines, these underlying software advancements manifest themselves in advanced robotics, wearable technologies, vehicles and machinery — and just about every gadget showcased at CES 2016. In other words, the real progress made over the past 12 months has been on the software side of the equation.
Machine learning is already being used by consumers — when Google finishes a search query or Siri scours the Internet to retrieve information. But machine learning is about to take on a much more significant role in the technology industry, as exemplified in Las Vegas.
At CES, Nvidia unveiled its deep learning “supercomputer” for cars, the Drive PX2, which trains a vehicle to identify objects and its relation to those objects, and then calculates the optimal path for safe travel. Silicon Valley-based competitor Qualcomm announced a similar technology, the Snapdragon 820A Chipset, which will provide similar driver-assistance platforms using machine intelligence.
That new passenger drone everyone’s talking about? Its flight path is determined by machine intelligence. All of those fancy smart home gadgets? They use machine learning, too. The same goes for wearables such as fitness trackers and smart glasses, virtual and augmented reality simulators, and just about any device that incorporates voice-activated controls, self-generating transportation routes or information retrieval.
And the Elon Musks of the world aren’t the only ones incorporating artificial intelligence into their latest innovations. Old-school car companies like Toyota are investing billions into machine learning and AI to create safer, more autonomous vehicles.
As everyday items ranging from glasses to cars come online, the role of those who manage the underlying networks is expanding and growing. A recent forecast by IDC suggests the big data technology and services market will reach US$41.5 billion in 2018, with a 26.4 per cent compound annual growth rate — six times that of the overall information technology market.
IDC also suggests that real-time intelligence and exploration of unstructured worlds will see double-digit growth rates through 2020.
Visitors largely walked away from CES concluding that the year’s greatest technological advancements are in the areas of wearable technology, self-driving cars, drones and virtual reality, but they are mistaken. This year’s greatest feats are in the rapidly advancing fields of AI, deep learning and big data. The gadgets and devices on display wouldn’t be possible without these software advancements.
Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos