Thursday, 02 May 2019 10:11

Amazon explores AI, machine learning and robotics at its Innovation Day 2019

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Alexa is Amazon's AI interface that the public would know best, but Amazon's Innovation Day not only looked at how the tech is being used today, but how it will all "evolve to meet the challenges of tomorrow".

Bringing together "global and local leaders from industry and science to share how technologies are being used to solve problems for customers today", Amazon's Innovation Day 2019 was also about "how these technologies will evolve to meet the challenges of tomorrow".

The event featured an audience of 8000 people who "heard how AI, Machine Learning, and robotics are changing our world and how this learning helps Amazon deliver for the customer".

We're told that "leading research and industry experts helped attendees to ‘think big’ by showcasing how AI and robotics can transform traditional industries like agriculture, how drones protect surfers, and how technology protects people and autonomous vehicles in high density urban areas.

"The ‘how’ of innovation was also explained – stepping through models and processes that today’s innovation leaders use to guide their work."

So, what did some of Amazon's leaders have to say about the day?

Tye Brady, the chief technologist for Amazon Robotics, said: “Humans are really good at problem solving, abstraction, generalisation, using common sense.

"And our machines that we develop? Crunching numbers, assessing databases, remembering a myriad of things, repetitive tasks, moving with precision, heavy lifting, machines are really good at these.

"But if you can blend these together in order to achieve something that is stronger than any one of them alone, you are now achieving the symphony of humans and machines working together, and when done right this creates jobs.”

“Since we’ve heavily invested in robotics in 2012, we have created over 300,000 jobs. Simply put, we couldn’t achieve our customer obsession without adding robotics and automation. We’ve just got to do it. To me it’s simple, the more robots we have, the more jobs we’re creating.”

Neil Lindsay, vice-president of Global Marketing at Amazon Prime & Engagement, said: "We’ll ask, what do we need to invent? And that’s a really important question, because if there’s nothing to invent, then is it really compelling enough, is this a big enough idea?

“When you have a big idea, when you’re working back from a compelling customer promise, it’s quite common to get a lot of noes. Naysayers are common with big ideas. And it’s important to work hard to get to yes.”

Jenny Freshwater, leader of Forecasting & Capacity Planning at Amazon, said: “We’ve talked a lot today through all the presentations about automation, but it’s really still about the people.

"We have deep learning algorithms that actually learn for themselves, but we still need people, smart scientists, to code those algorithms. And when we have a great model we move on and invent a better one.”

“In our world and in likely yours, machine learning is not just a buzzword, it’s our future.”

Other presenters at Amazon Innovation Day included Tom Soderstrom, IT chief technology and innovation officer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce; Rob James, Group chief technology officer, Qantas; AI Futurist Dr Jordan Nguyen; Dominic Price, Futurist, Atlassian; Salah Sukkarieh, Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, University of Sydney; and Baraja co-founders Federico Collarte and Cibby Pulikkaseril.

So, with 2020 edging ever close, the next decade of AI, machine learning and robotics is nearly upon us, and as long as humanity doesn't blow itself up in a catastrophic nuclear, environmental, political or financial crisis first, Amazon is just one of the tech companies ensuring our dreams of an advanced sci-fi future becomes ever more science fact in the present with every passing day, and long may it continue!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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