Use cases and benefits for AI in manufacturing
Rapid advances in artificial intelligence have chatbots and voice assistants replacing customer care reps, medical imaging tools doing the heavy lifting for doctors (with lower error rates no less) and versatile robots that can open doors and assist the elderly. If AI hasn’t already impacted your industry, it soon will. Read on to learn more about use cases and benefits for AI in manufacturing.
Artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer or a computer-controlled robot to perform tasks that are generally associated with intelligent beings. It is a rapidly growing area of computer science that aims to make smarter and smarter computer programs that can mimic human action and responses with a high level of accuracy.
When all is said and done, AI systems work on math and logic-based algorithms and decision trees that are “taught” correct human-like responses by feeding the system millions of scenarios along with correct and incorrect responses. Over time, the system can “learn” how to identify a trend and use that to make a correct estimate of what the correct response would be given a familiar scenario.
How it works
To illustrate how this would work, imagine an AI engineer feeding an algorithm thousands of pictures of cats, and thousands of pictures of rabbits, all of which are scanned and saved into memory. The system can be designed in such a way that it can compare pictures it has never seen before with pictures that have been fed to it in the past. By comparing new pictures of what are essentially “memories” of older pictures, the program would be able to identify which new picture more closely resembles cats it has seen before (in which case it can provide the correct response that the new picture is a picture of a cat) or a rabbit (in which case it outputs a response of “rabbit” after being shown the new picture).
By doing this with anything and everything from text, faces, numbers, signs, logos, hand movements, roads, weather conditions, X-rays, and even large sets of quantitative or qualitative data, AI systems can “learn” how to identify trends and they can autonomously make decisions about what type of output to provide when asked about specific inputs. And because inputs can be fed to the system just as quickly as you can feed data into any computer system, AI programs are fast, highly scalable, and they can efficiently churn through vast amounts of data in no time.
Odd use cases
AI in manufacturing is pretty powerful, but that doesn’t mean it has to be used in strictly scientific endeavors. Consider the following relatively odd (yet still useful) use cases that researchers have come up with for AI applications.
Flippy: CaliBurger is a hamburger restaurant that has experimented with an artificial intelligence-driven robot that is designed to flip burgers and place them on buns. Although it was initially designed to grill and flip burgers, its makers are working on training it for other tasks as well such as frying chicken and cutting vegetables.
Elli-Q: More a useful application of AI than an odd one, Elli-Q was designed to be a companion for the elderly. Featuring video chat functions, online games, and connections to social media, it is basically an interactive smartphone that can keep the elderly engaged and occupied.
Ara: Ara is a toothbrush on the outside with AI on the inside. Designed to tell where you’re brushing, the frequency with which you brush, and the duration of individual brushing sessions, it is something of an oral hygiene companion that aims to make oral health fun and easy to do.
Robot bees: Because of the rapid decrease in many bee populations thanks to pesticides, mites and nutrition issues, robotic bees have been designed with AI, GPS and high-res cameras to pollinate flowers just like their real-life counterparts do – and to hopefully stave off any impending agricultural disaster in the process.
Beyond the eccentric, there are countless applications of AI that have real value and benefit. Here are a few of them:
Diabetes control: An example of AI in manufacturing is Medtronic’s work with IBM. They’ve developed a medical monitoring device that analyzes data on sugar levels to predict when your body’s sugar level is expected to fall, hours before it actually does.
Medical imaging: AI programs fitted with cameras can be taught how to read X-rays and CT scans and to correctly identify medical issues that used to only be identifiable by the trained eye of a medical professional.
Market predictions: By analyzing historical data on the stock market and other commodity and trading information, AI programs can be taught how to make accurate predictions of where markets will go next.
Chatbots and voicebots: Speech and text recognition programs can take audio or written inputs, understand them, and execute very human-like actions based on commands or prompts. Voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Home are examples of speech recognition AI software.
Manufacturing applications: Robots have worked on factory floors for a long time. They are now being programmed to do increasingly intricate tasks such as removing debris from the factory floor, analyze heat and light data to know if there is an issue somewhere on the production line, and respond to human commands in real time.
Advantages of AI
There are numerous advantages to using AI in manufacturing systems in place of human workers. For one thing, they can work around the clock, all year long. They are also cheaper over the long run, although developing them and training them to provide correct responses to environmental stimuli may take a lot of time and money. They also perform their tasks with high levels of accuracy and are safer to use, especially in workplaces or environments that are dangerous, such as nuclear power stations, underground pipes, or even hard-to-reach bridges.
As we develop better and better logic methodologies for AI systems to use, these systems are very quickly being integrated into systems and devices of all shapes and sizes, and the ability of these systems to produce responses that accurately mimic human responses is only improving over time. AI has already shaken retail markets and is fast replacing many menial jobs, and as can be seen with some of the use cases discussed above, its use in medical imaging and disease diagnosis is advancing at a rapid pace. It won’t be long before the right combination of AI and physical robots is doing more than taking care of the elderly, reading scans and running workstations.
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