In the industrial world, the approach to AI is usually pragmatic and devoted to finding solutions to critical problems across the entire product lifecycle. It’s not just a matter of thinking of AI ''because people are talking about it'' but it’s a real, complicated concept that allows interesting enhancements to all digital innovations that have already been brought to manufacturers and suppliers. ''Artificial Intelligence isn’t simply a buzzword, it’s real and it’s here. AI provides critical tools for providing our customers with practical, valuable solutions; solutions that could not exist without AI.'' Edward Cuoco, Vice President of Analytics at PTC, said during our conversation on the occasion of the latest edition of PTC Live- Worx in Boston.
From that perspective, if we consider Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Computer Sensing, or even the interplay of Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing and how all these complex techniques and disciplines are introduced into the market through product innovation, we understand how much AI is an actionable thing and not only a ''chatbot''.
''Artificial intelligence is complicated as it should be; at a distance the degree to which AI has been integrated into our world is simply miraculous. Just twenty years ago, the idea of having tons of commercially available AI would have made people laugh, but today we find ourselves surrounded by quite a lot of AI. The real challenge in the industrial space is to make sure that we bring it to the market in a way that is usable and delivers value,'' Edward Cuoco added.
This approach is pivotal as it helps people use these features, disciplines, and techniques when and where they need to. This is going to be the real strength that underpins the concept of AI. Here is the key point: let’s encourage companies to engage with AI, not by asking them to understand it, but making sure that the technology provided works in a way that is both effective and gives confidence. Edward Cuoco summarized this fundamental idea very well: ''At PTC, we think that we need to be leaders in the application of AI in the industrial sector; we focus on the practical application of AI to create and add value for our customers.''
Now, after having determined the viability of AI in the real world, another question comes naturally: How have AI fundamentally changed the way people engage with their environment? AI allows us to understand the world in a different way and from a unique perspective. It helps us remark and record everyday actions that would be otherwise unremarkable and create patterns for prediction and analysis.
''AI is unique in its ability to not only help us understand information and drive insight but also that it’s a powerful tool for augmenting human reasoning; when used properly, AI helps identify and determine hidden biases and human blind spots. Concepts like Sentiment Analysis changed the way we interact with one another and with machines. So if we look at the whole picture, the benefit of artificial intelligence and augmented reality goes beyond making a machine work better, they also extend and enhance human capacities.''
By augmenting human capacities through AI and AR, the interaction with the world and the processing of precious information becomes possible and faster. If you transplant this ability to the industrial context, you end up having humans so engaged with the surrounding environment that they are able to deeply understand what’s happening on complex systems and, consequently, to elaborate on complicated information and take appropriate actions.
''AI allows systems to conceptualize and articulate complex machines and processes and present that to people, improving their ability to drive insights they can trust and consume. Take predictive maintenance as an example; this ability to understand what is likely to happen in the future allows experts to be more proactive and more informed, to really optimize their talents. It also allows people with less experience or domain expertise to have access to insights and recognize patterns that would have previously been beyond their current skills,’’ explained Mr. Cuoco.
The idea of ''augmented human'' doesn’t bring with it the assumption of the superiority of AI and doesn’t objectify humans. The human factor is still fundamental as AI doesn’t substitute expertise nor is it immune to bias reproduction – which is one of the most critical and discussed downsides of AI. For sure, AI can reproduce bias and accelerate bad decisions. What makes a real difference is operators’ expertise and ability to see things from a different perspective, also thanks to the tools and information that AI provides. ''Human accountability remains at the heart of any AI strategy,'' affirmed Edward Cuoco. After all, what would a world without humans be like?