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Bob Gourley

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The Impact of Cloud Robotics on Artificial Intelligence

Look at any science-fiction vision of our technological future and you’ll find a world dominated by artificial intelligence. Some of these visions may go for the more dystopian angle, where humanity has been displaced by self-aware robots that now rule the world. Other, more optimistic views look at AI as a great benefit to our species, helping us in exploration and furthering the advances of scientific endeavors. This more favorable outlook is one scientists are pursuing, but the process of getting AI to that point has been long and fraught with challenges. All those struggles may be coming to a head soon as we may stand on the precipice of an explosion in robotics and artificial intelligence. This has not come about by accident, either. Much of the credit for this progress can be given to advances in deep learning technology and, in particular, cloud robotics.

Cloud robotics may sound like a mashup of the incredibly popular trend of cloud computing and robotic technology, and in all seriousness, that description isn’t far off. The development of artificial intelligence, despite its overall usefulness, has run into a number of significant roadblocks over the years. One of the most challenging is the massive amount of computational power and resources needed for a robot to think similarly to that of a human. Thanks to the technology behind cloud computing, artificial intelligence can now draw resources from multiple data centers, effectively spreading out the demand. This allows more people and organizations to have access to the power of AI. The same can be said of the need for storage and communications technologies that are distributed through the cloud.

The hyper converged infrastructure available from cloud computing essentially gives robotics the chance to offload tasks that do not require intensive real time resources. That means AI can place more of its focus on the observation of the world around it. That’s part of the key to having successful AI -- its ability to learn and adapt. If AI had to do all those calculations along with its normal functional operations by itself, the storage and resources required would make it impractical. Instead, cloud robotics manages to share the load, leading to a more versatile AI that’s capable of tackling more advanced challenges.

A major benefit of using cloud robotics for advancing AI isn’t just the offloading of minor tasks; it also includes removing costly overhead when it comes to maintenance and updates. Instead of organizations worrying about supplying AI with the latest technology and constantly needing to maintain the equipment, cloud robotics takes care of it, basically reducing the high price of AI and giving more institutions the chance to take advantage of its benefits. Cloud robotics also gets rid of the dependence on custom middleware. Now multiple robots can share the same technology.

This concept of sharing through the cloud extends to the ways in which AI can learn. Learning from data it collects helps AI in situations it has not yet encountered, but without the cloud, this was limited to what each individual robot experienced. With the help of cloud computing, Robot A can learn about one thing (say identifying handwriting from a picture), and that knowledge can be transferred to Robot B, even if Robot B has not seen it. This type of knowledge sharing in the advancement of AI is even larger in scope. With the cloud spreading throughout the world, what one robot learns can then be shared with every other robot through the internet. This leads to faster development and quicker learning. Such a phenomenon can be seen to a lesser extent in Google’s self-driving cars, where one car can share images, data, and maps with all the other cars connected to the same network. The other cars learn the information without having to drive on the same roads.

These developments may strike some as alarming, at least if they gravitate toward the pessimistic view of the future and AI. However, to most scientists, the advances made in artificial intelligence are exciting and could usher in an era of incredible prosperity. Without cloud robotics, the advances made by these experts would be much more difficult to achieve. Or put another way, cloud robotics is definitely speeding along the process of attaining true artificial intelligence.

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Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com