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From Science Fiction to Fact

Developers are coming up with things these days that used to be the stuff of science fiction. Self-driving cars. Drones that deliver packages to your door. Engineers are racing to do more with artificial intelligence. And what they're building could put some people out of a job.

"Thank you for coming. My name is EMIEW 2."
EMIEW 2

This robot, developed by a leading electronics company, greets visitors as they arrive. There are two cameras installed in its head, allowing it to identify and name objects that it sees. (15)

"What is this?"

"It's... a watch."

The robot's brain is controlled by artificial intelligence. It searches the Internet for images similar to the objects spotted by its cameras. Once the robot has found a commonly-used word, it guesses what the object is and responds.

In conversations, EMIEW can understand the meaning of a sentence, even if it's expressed in different ways.

"What's the height of Mount Fuji?"

"3,776 meters."

"How high is Mount Fuji?"

"3,776 meters."

"The robot's key feature is that it can learn on its own, using its data and experience. It doesn't have to be taught. We hope it can be introduced at hospitals, shopping centers and other places."
Hisashi Ikeda / Central Research Laboratory, Hitachi

Artificial intelligence is already being used by some businesses. This company conducts research to find corporate wrongdoing and provide legal support. It checks e-mails and document files for evidence and materials that might indicate wrongdoing.

One large computer can store over a million files. So artificial intelligence is needed to sort through large volumes of data.

At most law firms, the staff have to go through every single file and e-mail, one at a time, to check for any wrongdoing. To program the digital brain, documents relating to both legal and illegal acts are first inputted -- roughly 100 of each.

It can then scan documents and sort them into the two categories. It sorts documents 4,000 times faster than people, and, as it gains experience, its accuracy improves.

In this demonstration, the digital brain was able to sift through about 300,000 items of data in 30 minutes. It was able to identify requests for money that used the code word, "alpha."

"It found the word 'alpha' was being used to ask for money in exchange for something. We would never pick that up unless we had input it first."
Kenji Ohnishi / Advanced Data Analysis manager, UBIC

"Artificial intelligence is gaining greater accuracy than people in making judgments. Humans sometimes make errors, but artificial intelligence doesn't. So, I trust it and use it."
Kenji Ohnishi / Advanced Data Analysis manager, UBIC

This trend could have major implications. A US research firm, Gartner, warns that over 50percent of jobs will be taken over by artificial intelligence by 2020, putting 17 percent of the workforce out of their jobs. Before long, humans may find themselves facing off against robots and artificial intelligence in the workplace.

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