By the time 2020 rolled in, the coronavirus was already spreading, though most of the world were oblivious as to just how dangerous this was. Then, as it took hold of nation after nation, bringing most of the world to a shutdown, crippling economies, and killing more than a million people, those same countries sought ways to protect their citizens the best way they could.
In the midst of all that chaos, and with most countries still grappling with (or worried about) another COVID-19 wave to strike, artificial intelligence is gaining traction. Though it has been around for a while, AI is being used and studied as a means to help combat the spread of this pandemic. And this could have lasting effects well into the future.
Communication and Tracing
While there are many applications for which AI is useful in the fight against coronavirus, a few are of note. First, artificial intelligence has improved and enhanced communication, which is critical in helping to curtail the spread of the pandemic.
Second, it allows government and medical professionals to be more efficient in tracking the spread of a virus-like COVID-19. Utilizing AI, experts are more quickly able to determine where a person may have contracted the virus, where they have visited, and more rapidly get out ahead of this spreading pandemic.
Third, AI has been helping to ramp up and speed research and development into a treatment, which has numerous lasting positive effects throughout the medical and education sectors.
Within the medical sector, artificial intelligence has been assisting in robotic surgery for years. According to Dr. John Birkemeyer, the chief clinical officer at Sound Physicians, “Artificial intelligence can help surgeons perform better. We know that a surgeon’s skill, particularly with new or difficult procedures, varies widely, with huge implications for patient outcomes and cost. AI can both reduce that variation, and help all surgeons improve, even the best ones.”
Artificial intelligence-assisted surgery may still be relatively new, but it’s deployment and innovation is proceeding at a rapid pace. And it is helping beyond the realm of surgical procedures, too.
Telehealth, or telemedicine, is becoming increasingly popular now in light of COVID-19. Limiting the risk of exposure for patients as well as physicians, administrative assistants and doctors’ offices, and other medical professionals is a key benefit that telemedicine offers. In fact, according to Tata Consulting Services, 86% of leading healthcare organizations have already adopted AI and they plan to invest $54 million more on it this year.
Another added advantage to AI within the health sector involves medical imaging. Using what’s referred to as ‘machine learning,’ medical professionals and organizations around the world are using artificial intelligence to more rapidly map the virus and recognize patterns. What might have taken otherwise days or weeks can now be done in hours or even minutes.
This is also helping large and small organizations become more efficient. By scaling and adjusting to new rules and regulations, a new way of living, businesses can accommodate customers as well as employees, even when facing quarantine or social distancing guidelines. AI is helping to provide the tools necessary to improve communication and even establish better safety protocols for food production and distribution.
AI in Education
Artificial intelligence is also being integrated into education as well as supporting individuals with special needs. Although it is absolutely essential to have human interaction in the educational environment, AI is assisting teachers in numerous aspects.
It can provide effective tools to help teachers connect with students in a more personal and effective way. It is also helping children with autism with something called the ‘BuddyBot’ program. This is a talking companion for children with autism. It “adaptively convers[es] with participants to potentially identify weaknesses in and improve their conversational skills, such as reducing perseverative/fixated topics of speech and repetitive speech.”
While studies are still ongoing, initial research and results are proving to be positive, which can open a pathway for more assistance for other children with special needs in the future. In short, AI could potentially transform education and support for learning across a wide spectrum of abilities.
Ushering in a New Wave
Although artificial intelligence has been around for decades, even if mostly in concept and theory originally, thanks to other advancing technologies, it has become a vital component of modern technology, especially the future of technology.
This year, the global pandemic known as coronavirus has ushered in a new wave of desire for artificial intelligence. While the general public may have been a bit wary of it in the past, they are embracing AI like never before.