Will the machines take over? Facebook has revealed more about its artificial intelligence research.

According to Yann Lecunn, director of Facebook AI Research, the goal is to build intelligent machines that help people. “What makes us intelligent is our ability to learn and this is what we are trying to replicate in machines,” he explained.

Facebook’s AI Research (FAIR) team have been developing computers that can plan, recognise images, understand language, and learn.

Planning: The team has created an AI system that can play Go. Go is a Chinese strategy game tougher for computers to understand than chess. There are five times the number of spaces, which means many more potential outcomes.

No computer has yet beaten a human, but, according to Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer, after a few months Facebook’s AI system is as good as a strong human player.

“We’ve achieved this by combining the traditional search-based approach — modelling out each possible move as the game progresses — with a pattern-matching system built by our computer vision team,” he said.  

See Facebook’s AI  system play Go.

Image recognition/language recognition: Facebook has developed a system it calls a visual Q & A (or VQA).  This is when the computer can detect what is in a photograph and understand questions about the scenario.

In this video, Facebook’s AI system recognises there’s a baby in the picture and successfully answers questions about where it is and what it is doing.

Predictive Learning is when the computer understands the outcome by observing a situation.

Facebook developed a system where the computer ‘watches’ a video of a tower made from blocks toppling over. After a few months’ work, it can predict which way the tower will fall 90% of the time.

In the video at the top of the page you can see how this type of technology can help partially sighted people.

Many people are worried by the thought of intelligent computers, a perception based on films such as Minority Report and AI, but Lecunn believes the outcome will be positive.

“AI systems are going to be an extension of our brains, in the same way cars are an extension of our legs. They are not going to replace us – they are going to amplify everything we do, augmenting your memory, giving you instant knowledge,” he said.

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