Researchers are working on combining the technologies to create realistic 2D avatars of people who can interact in real time, showing emotion and making context-relevant gestures. A Samsung-associated company called Neon has introduced an early version of such avatars, though the technology has a long way to go before it is practical to use.
Such avatars could help revolutionize education. Artificial intelligence researchers are already developing A.I. tutoring systems that can track student behavior, predict their performance and deliver content and strategies to both improve that performance and prevent students from losing interest. A.I. tutors hold the promise of truly personalized education available to anyone in the world with an Internet-connected device — provided they are willing to surrender some privacy.
“Having a visual interaction with a face that expresses emotions, that expresses support, is very important for teachers,” said Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and the founder of Mila, an artificial intelligence research institute. Korbit, a company founded by one of his students, Iulian Serban, and Riiid, based in South Korea, are already using this technology in education, though Mr. Bengio says it may be a decade or more before such tutors have natural language fluidity and semantic understanding.
There are seemingly endless ways in which artificial intelligence is beginning to touch our lives, from discovering new materials to new drugs — A.I. has already played a role in the development of Covid-19 vaccines by narrowing the field of possibilities for scientists to search — to picking the fruit we eat and sorting the garbage we throw way. Self-driving cars work, they’re just waiting for laws and regulations to catch up with them.
Artificial intelligence is even starting to write software and may eventually write more complex A.I. Diffblue, a start-up out of Oxford University, has an A.I. system that automates the writing of software tests, a task that takes up as much as a third of expensive developers’ time. Justin Gottschlich, who runs the machine programming research group at Intel Labs, envisions a day when anyone can create software simply by telling an A.I. system clearly what they want the software to do.
“I can imagine people like my mom creating software,” he said, “even though she can’t write a line of code.”
Craig S. Smith is a former correspondent for The Times and hosts the podcast “Eye on A.I.”