Looking outside the box: how AI is being used against COVID-19, fighting bias in writing, and virtual assistants going to work in the UK

This week in artificial intelligence (AI) news, we take a look at AI apps being utilized to fight COVID-19 in GCC countries, how technology is trying to eliminate unconscious bias in writing, and Google’s Duplex AI assistant’s mission to contact restaurants and businesses all over the United Kingdom.

Countries making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have implemented some of the strictest measures on their citizens in order to help fight the spread of COVID-19. This includes lockdown and closure of businesses. However, these countries are taking measures even further with the use of technologies like speed cameras, drones, and robots, helping the governments to monitor their citizens who have tested positive for the coronavirus in order to limit their interaction with the general public. One particular country, Bahrain, is using an application called “BeAware”, in which registration is mandatory for those in quarantine, allowing users to track their proximity to someone infected with the virus. But AI is not being used just to monitor residents. Some AI programs are also being utilized for business purposes. One app is using ‘aisle-mapping’ technology in supermarkets to help track customers’ orders to help lower delivery time, thus minimizing delivery personnel interactions within the stores and warehouses. Read more about these and other AI apps being used to fight COVID-19 and help businesses and hospitals in the GCC in this article from CNBC.

Kieran Snyder, CEO of a Seattle-based startup called Textio, an augmented writing platform, spoke with Wired.com about how technology and platforms like theirs can be used to eliminate unconscious bias in writing. Language patterns can help determine how readers will interpret an actual text and who your text may resonate with, including job applications and postings, emails, and everything in between. Read or listen to this interview from Wired.com and learn more about how AI can be used to combat unconscious bias in everyday writing.

First presented at Google’s annual I/O developer conference in May 2018, the Duplex AI assistant has been used in countries like the United States and New Zealand to make reservations at restaurants and other service-industry businesses on behalf of its users. This lifelike system is able to imitate a human’s voice, even using fillers in conversation, throwing in an ‘uh-huh’ or an ‘mmm’ while the real human being on the other end of the line spoke. Now, during these uncertain times of closing businesses and quarantine, Duplex is being rolled out in the United Kingdom, with its first mission to contact businesses across the UK to update the new operational hours of restaurants and businesses due to normal schedules being interrupted by COVID-19, resulting in the most up-to-date opening hours in Google search and Google Maps. Read more on the Duplex AI assistant by clicking here.


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