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Last Week in AI #63

AI hype on Covid-19, social robots for kids, AI writes music and poems, and more!

Last Week in AI #63

Image credit: Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg / Getty Images / via Wired

Mini Briefs

Artificial Intelligence Won’t Save Us From Coronavirus

Many companies have rushed to proclaim how their AI systems are being used to fight the current Covid-19 outbreak. While some applications, like predicting viral spread from flight patterns, have been deployed, many of these AI tools are not yet ready for prime time.

For example, computer vision models have reportedly achieved 96% Covid-19 diagnosis accuracy on CT-scans. However, this number is “unbelievably high” without “external validation,” and experts agree that “CT scans should not be used as ‘first-line tests to diagnose Covid-19.’” Automated cameras to detect fever from thermal images are also not reliable enough, as the results are affected by factors like ambient temperature and humidity. As such, the CDC does not recommend using thermal imaging alone as a detector for fever.

AI is a widely applicable technology with tremendous potential, but its advantages need to be hedged in a realistic understanding of its limitations.

Meet Moxie, a Social Robot That Helps Kids With Social-Emotional Learning

Embodied, a robotics startup, is working on Moxie, a social robot “designed to help all kids improve their social-emotional and communication skills through relatively short daily interactions.” Moxie will guide a child through a series of conversations and activities, which are produced by its in-house team of experts in psychology and child development. The company has already tested the robot with a hundred families for more than a year, and it expects to launch the product in October.

There are many privacy and ethical concerns with social robots that interact with children. Embodied addresses some of this by performing “90 percent” of processing (including all camera images) on the device, and not in the cloud, while data uploaded to the cloud is first anonymized. Moxie is not cheap - it will sell for $1500 plus a $60 per month subscription fee for new interactive content.

But remember, this isn’t a toy, it’s a tool, and if it’s something your kid needs, or could benefit from, it may very well be more than worth the cost.

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  • The surge of sensationalist COVID-19 AI research - There seems to be a tendency to hastily use imperfect and questionable data to train an AI solution for COVID-19, a dangerous trend that not only does not help any patient or physician but also damages the reputation of the AI community.

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