Computers will outsmart humans some day, said some of the nation's most successful innovators at the Intel Developer Forum this week in San Francisco.
Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, on Thursday led his keynote with the idea that advancements in technology have surpassed predictions and that in the not-so-distant future machines could surpass humans in intelligence.
Rattner touched on the idea of technological singularity, or rapid progress, championed by innovator and artificial-intelligence expert Ray Kurzweil. In blogs and talks, Kurzweil has said he believes machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence. He said he also believes that technological change is so rapid and profound that it will lead to immortal software-based humans and ultra-high levels of intelligence.
The most common idea of singularity is based on AI, but it goes beyond that, according to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, based in Palo Alto. It also includes direct brain-computer interfaces and genetic engineering.
Through a video discussion at the forum, Kurzweil said machines are talking to each other at billions of bits per second. Human neurons send signals at a top speed of 150 meters per second. And most human neurons can go a maximum of 200 times per second, according to the Singularity Institute. In comparison, speeds in modern computer chips are about 2GHz, a 10 million-fold difference.
Brain Interface for Gaming
Tan Le, Emotiv Systems president and cofounder, demonstrated an example of brain-computer interface. Emotiv, based in San Francisco, uses brain interface and electroencephalography, or EEG, technology. Brain-interface technology works by looking at a person's electrical brain activity and processing it so the computer takes commands directly from the brain.
This happens by observing the electrical impulses emitted from a person's brain cells or neurons through EEG, a noninvasive technology. These impulses are sent through the company's EPOC, a wearable headset, which can detect 30 different emotions, facial expressions, and actions.
"Unlike other neurotechnologies that only detect a limited number of brain 'states', Emotiv has created the first brain-computer interface technology that can detect and process both human conscious thoughts and nonconscious emotions, including those represented by brain-activity patterns unique to a particular individual," said Emotiv spokesperson Nicole Wasowski. "It is the only brain-computer interface that can detect a user's smile or wink, differentiate between thoughts of pushing an object or lifting it, and interpret emotions such as excitement and calmness."
Emotiv is targeting the gaming market, which in the U.S. alone is $17.9 billion, according to NPD Group.
Chipmaker Researches AI
Rattner talked about Intel's research in this area. He said researchers are working on their own version of transformers like those that transform from a moving vehicle to a speaking robot.
They are investigating how tiny robots dubbed "catoms" can make devices change form. According to Intel, these catoms can change a computer to a pocket-sized computer and then into the shape of an earpiece when used as a mobile phone, and could also be large and flat with a keyboard for browsing the Internet or viewing a movie.
And then there are the robots. Rattner showed two robot prototypes developed at Intel that use perception, manipulation and artificial intelligence. Rattner demonstrated how one robot can feel objects before touching them. Another demonstration showed a robot that recognizes faces, understands commands, and executes those commands.
Rattner said the research is still in its early stages.