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Technology 24 Jan 2017

Perceptual intelligence: the latest nexus between machines and people

People interact with computers and electronic devices as a matter of course, but perceptual intelligence wants to go beyond that. The aim is for machines to perceive what human beings do around them, helping people make decisions or anticipating their needs.

Cognitive technology can understand, reason and learn. It analyzes thousands of pieces of data and, more importantly, is capable of giving the data a meaning by finding relating them to each other. But how far can it go?

What for some may appear science fiction is in fact already a reality applied in many fields. Alejandro Campos, a technical Microsoft evangelist, explained at the event Disruptive 2016 the possibilities of cognitive systems for users, developers and companies. He gave simple and practical explanations that illustrated how the system can be integrated into the most diverse applications. Let’s look at some of them.

Cognitive services are used, for example, to analyze images. They allow you to detect whether the picture is of a man or woman, the person’s age, or whether the content is violent or for adults only. Once the attributes of the image have been determined, the system describes it with tags. This allows it to be categorized and determines its subsequent use.

But the analysis can be much more detailed. Once someone’s image has been tagged for the first time, a full name can be put to it from then on. For example, if your smartphone puts names to the faces that appear in a family photo you have just taken, that is cognitive technology at work. To say nothing of Facebook, where cognitive recognition is the order of the day. And the same can be applied to famous people or dignitaries: recognized, identified…. and tagged!

That’s not the only thing. Perceptual intelligence detects emotions. Systems are capable of capturing whether people depicted are happy, content, angry… A good example of its application is this surprising Microsoft video, which shows how a blind person discovers a “new dimension” thanks to glasses with an integrated cognitive system: they are able to know who is around you, what they are doing and even detects their emotions or the movement of objects.

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Introducing the Seeing AI project

Cognitive technology is also able to help a company’s organization. One example is how the systems can recognize the language and register (colloquial, cultured) being used, then classify and assign it to a category. This can be useful for organizing a business, as the system is capable of recognizing invoices and classifying them in the section allocated to accounting, for example.

Another use that the Microsoft evangelist highlighted was cognitive systems in sales. For example, if I look at a shop window, the cognitive systems will be able to detect whether I am happy, whether I am a man or woman, and whether something in the store interests me. Information of this kind is very useful and will allow those responsible for sales to make an offer to the person in real time, either by sending a message to his or her phone or via a screen in the store.

Cognitive recognition is the order of the day

Perceptual intelligence also takes language and speech notes. The services are capable of converting what we say into text and vice versa. This is very useful if you want to save time or, for example, record customer orders made by phone in a restaurant offering a home-delivery service.

As in the case of images, they detect and relate audio messages so they can connect a person to his or her voice. They can also carry out a syntactical analysis of texts to indicate their important parts.

Another of the points highlighted by Campos was the services called “bots” (a contraction of “robot”), which are computer programs capable of talking to people. The progress in artificial intelligence is developing machines capable of talking to human beings in a natural language; machines that are becoming increasingly like ourselves.

Cognitive disruptive 2016

Cognitive technology is able to help people and companies

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