04 Sep 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021
We all use GPS every day; it has transformed our lives and many of our businesses. But while today’s GPS is accurate to within 5 to 10 meters, new hyper-accurate positioning technologies have accuracies within a few centimeters or millimeters. That’s opening up new possibilities, from landslide warnings to delivery robots and self-driving cars that can safely navigate streets.
China’s BeiDou (Big Dipper) global navigation system was completed in June 2020 and is part of what’s making all this possible. It provides positioning accuracy of 1.5 to two meters to anyone in the world. Using ground-based augmentation, it can get down to millimeter-level accuracy. Meanwhile, GPS, which has been around since the early 1990s, is getting an upgrade: four new satellites for GPS III launched in November and more are expected in orbit by 2023. Ling Xin reports on how the greatly increased accuracy of these systems is already proving useful.
SIERRA & LENNY
The covid pandemic forced the world to go remote. Getting that shift right has been especially critical in health care and education. Some places around the world have done a particularly good job at getting remote services in these two areas to work well for people.
Snapask, an online tutoring company, has more than 3.5 million users in nine Asian countries, and Byju’s, a learning app based in India, has seen the number of its users soar to nearly 70 million. Unfortunately, students in many other countries are still floundering with their online classes.
Meanwhile, telehealth efforts in Uganda and several other African countries have extended health care to millions during the pandemic. In a part of the world with a chronic lack of doctors, remote health care has been a life saver. Sandy Ong reports on the remarkable success of online learning in Asia and the spread of telemedicine in Africa.
Despite the immense progress in artificial intelligence in recent years, AI and robots are still dumb in many ways, especially when it comes to solving new problems or navigating unfamiliar environments. They lack the human ability, found even in young children, to learn how the world works and apply that general knowledge to new situations.
One promising approach to improving the skills of AI is to expand its senses; currently AI with computer vision or audio recognition can sense things but cannot “talk” about what it sees and hears using natural-language algorithms. But what if you combined these abilities in a single AI system? Might these systems begin to gain human-like intelligence? Might a robot that can see, feel, hear, and communicate be a more productive human assistant? Karen Hao explains how AIs with multiple senses will gain a greater understanding of the world around them, achieving a much more flexible intelligence.