China is planning to upgrade its naval power with unmanned AI submarines that aim to provide an edge over the fleets of their global counterparts.
A report by the South China Post on Sunday revealed Beijing’s plans to build the automated subs by the early 2020s in response to unmanned weapons being developed in the US.
The subs will be able to patrol areas in the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean that are home to disputed military bases.
While the expected cost of the submarines has not been disclosed, they’re likely to be cheaper than conventional submarines as they do not require life-supporting apparatus for humans. However, without a human crew, they’ll also need to be resilient enough to be at sea without onboard repairs possible.
The XLUUVs (Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) are much bigger than current underwater vehicles, will be able to dock as any other conventional submarine, and will carry a large amount of weaponry and equipment.
As a last resort, they could be used in automated ‘suicide’ attacks that scuttle the vessel but causes damage to an enemy’s ship that may or not be manned.
“The AI has no soul. It is perfect for this kind of job,” said Lin Yang, Chief Scientist on the project. “[An AI sub] can be instructed to take down a nuclear-powered submarine or other high-value targets. It can even perform a kamikaze strike.”
The AI element of the submarines will need to carry out many tasks including navigating often unpredictable waters, following patrol routes, identifying friendly or hostile ships, and making appropriate decisions.
It’s the decision-making that will cause the most concern as the AI is being designed not to seek input during the course of a mission.
The international norm being promoted by AI researchers is that any weaponised AI system will require human input to ultimately make a decision. Any news that China is following a policy of creating weaponised AIs that do not require human input should be of global concern.
AI robots will solve underwater infrastructure damage checks
Robots will be paired with a versatile AI that can quickly adapt to unpredictable conditions when examining underwater infrastructure.
Some of a nation’s most vital infrastructure hides beneath the water. The difficulty in accessing most of it, however, makes important damage checks infrequent.
Sending humans down requires significant training and can take several weeks to recover due to the often extreme depths. There are far more underwater structures than skilled divers to inspect them.
Robots have been designed to carry out some of these dangerous tasks. The problem is until now they’ve lacked the smarts to deal with the unpredictable and rapidly-changing nature of underwater conditions.
Researchers from Stevens Institute of Technology are working on algorithms which enable these underwater robots to check and protect infrastructure.
Their work is led by Brendan Englot, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens.
“There are so many difficult disturbances pushing the robot around, and there is often very poor visibility, making it hard to give a vehicle underwater the same situational awareness that a person would have just walking around on the ground or being up in the air,” says Englot.
Englot and his team are using reinforcement learning for training algorithms. Rather than use an exact mathematical model, the robot performs actions and observes whether it helps to attain its goal.
Through a case of trial-and-error, the algorithm is updated with the collected data to figure out the best ways to deal with changing underwater conditions. This will enable the robot to successfully manoeuvre and navigate even in previously unmapped areas.
A robot was recently sent on a mission to map a pier in Manhattan.
“We didn’t have a prior model of that pier,” says Englot. “We were able to just send our robot down and it was able to come back and successfully locate itself throughout the whole mission.”
The robots use sonar for data, widely regarded as the most reliable for undersea navigation. It works similar to a dolphin’s echolocation by measuring how long it takes for high-frequency chirps to bounce off nearby structures.
A pitfall with this approach is you’re only going to be able to receive imagery similar to a grayscale medical ultrasound. Englot and his team believe that once a structure has been mapped out, a second pass by the robot could use a camera for a high-resolution image of critical areas.
For now, it’s early days but Englot’s project is an example of how AI is enabling a new era for robotics that improves efficiency while reducing the risks to humans.
Can India become an AI hub for the developing world?
A recent report on artificial intelligence (AI) by an Indian government think tank foresees the country as an AI hub for the developing world. Research analyst Shashank Reddy writes about the possibility of that happening.
India is the latest country to join the race to lead the AI revolution, which is still in the making. The world’s richest – and most powerful – countries have long been in this competition. It cuts across all spheres of national power, from the economy to the military, because the idea is that leadership in AI will enable global dominance.
The two biggest powers so far have been the United States and China, with each investing heavily in AI and its applications. So does India stand a chance?
Yes, according to a report released this month by think tank Niti Aayog.
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The report – which has been drafted as a “national strategy on AI” – admits that India lags significantly behind the superpowers in fundamental research and resources. Compared to the United States, it has fewer researchers and only a handful of dedicated laboratories and university departments. India also does not have tech giants such as Google and Amazon or behemoths like Baidu and Alibaba – all companies that can afford to invest in cutting-edge research.
But India enjoys crucial advantages too. It has a vast engineering workforce, a burgeoning start-up scene and an increasing amount of data as more people buy smartphones and go online.
The report itself is the latest in a slew of recent endeavours by the Indian government to encourage AI research. The federal government has created special committees to explore the possibilities AI offers in various sectors, from commerce to defence, as well as the issues that could arise from its widespread use. This year’s budget allocated money to develop a national AI strategy.
Consumers want businesses to have more human-like AI
Research has found most consumers have interacted with AI and would prioritise businesses with human-like implementations.
The research, from Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute, found close to three-quarters (73 percent) of consumers have interacted via AI.
Satisfaction with those who have experienced AI interactions is slightly lower, at 69 percent. Over two-thirds satisfaction is quite surprisingly high, especially when you consider how dissatisfied people typically are with traditional automated systems.
Just over half (55%) of consumers across all age groups want interactions to be a mix of AI and humans, while 64 percent want AIs to be more ‘human-like’ rather than ‘human-looking’.
Interestingly, the fear surrounding AI intellect – likely instilled through sci-fi movies such as Terminator – appears to be decreasing. More than three in five consumers (62%) are now comfortable with an AI featuring human-like intellect.
Where an AI has the desired human-like qualities, almost half (48%) say they feel more goodwill towards a company and would have a greater propensity to spend.
One major benefit the majority (63%) of people felt AI had over humans was its 24/7 availability and how it provides greater control over their interactions.
Back in May, Google showed a demo of its impressive-yet-controversial ‘Duplex’ (now renamed to ‘Duet’) AI system which could make calls on a person’s behalf while sounding like a human. It was shown booking a hair salon appointment with the other person completely unaware they were speaking to an AI.
48 percent of respondents say the opportunity to be able to delegate tasks to an electronic personal assistant is exciting, with another 46 percent believing it will enhance their quality of life.
Despite consumers wanting AI to have human attributes like similar voice (62%) and the ability to understand emotions (57%), they also find them “creepy” and do not want them to appear human.
More than half (52%) of customers are not comfortable when AI is set up to look like a person. The report also finds that two-thirds of consumers (66%) would like to be made aware when companies are enabling interactions via AI.
Some companies, such as Google and Microsoft, have committed themselves to ensuring their AIs identify themselves as such to a human at the beginning of an interaction. Lawmakers are considering legislation to make this a legal obligation.
The research surveyed 10,000 consumers and more than 500 executives at leading organisations across 10 global markets.