Research and Development of Future AI Technology
Anticipating Consumer Needs
Horvitz explained that Microsoft is working on numerous ways to study data and human behavior in order to have computer programs become more tailored to meet an individual's needs. Many of these new software AI applications have evolved out of the mobile workforce, with people no longer working solely at a desk inside an office. Employees now keep in touch with supervisors or family members through mobile devices ranging from cell phones and laptop computers to wireless personal digital assistants (PDAs). The AI teams at Microsoft are developing applications to make those systems communicate and function more efficiently.
“We're building large infrastructures that present a vision of how communications will work some day,” Horvitz said. “There will be software agents that will deliver new ways for callers to communicate. We're calling it Bestcom, which is determining the most efficient way to get in contact with the software agent working on people's behalf. It's similar to something [else] we're building called Smart Secretary.
“There will be systems that balance the context of users against the balance of costs for disruption of messages coming in, versus the benefits of allowing them through. There will be a system that can look at your calendar and your desktop activity, using cameras and microphones, to assign a level of interruptability to people. Right now, I use the Busybuddy system, which will see how busy I am and hold messages and calls.
“From there, we built a system to evaluate how important messages are. It's called the Priorities System. It assigns e-mail and measures the cost of delayed review and assigns each message a number from 0–100. We'll then capture a notion of each message's urgency and the system will ‘learn’ that by watching a person work with his or her e-mail. The Priorities System will learn to only alert a person, [anticipate] when he or she is busy, and then deliver important messages [as needed]. We hope to have a system determine when we're away from the desk when to send an e-mail or message to a cell phone or PDA. The changes in computing mean we're building elegant tools that work on your behalf while keeping you informed and letting you work.”
At Microsoft, the majority of employees have advanced degrees. However, as the various research labs at Microsoft and other firms such as Yahoo!, Google, IBM, ATT, GE, and NEC grow, people fresh out of college with an undergraduate degree will be able to find entry-level work. These positions include program managers, software developers, and information architects. “Undergrads should have a background to the side of their core work in psychology, and it's always good to take one philosophy of the mind class to understand the mind at a fundamental level,” Horvitz said. “It's always great to have some biology background to understand nervous systems to keep people broadminded about human intelligence. They should [also] take a good dose of mathematics and computer science curriculum. Math should include a logic class and a good class on probability theory.”
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