The Future of Everything covers the innovation and technology transforming the way we live, work and play, with monthly issues on health, money, cities and more. This month is Artificial Intelligence, online starting July 2 and in the paper on July 9.
Even the smartest computers cannot fully understand the world without the ability to see, hear, smell, taste or touch. But in the decadeslong race to make software think like humans—and beat them at “Jeopardy!”—the idea of endowing a machine with humanlike senses seemed far-fetched. Not anymore, engineers and researchers say.
Capabilities powered by artificial intelligence, like image or voice recognition, are already commonplace features of smartphones and virtual assistants. Now, customized sensors, machine learning and neural networks—a subset of AI that mimics the way our brains work—are pushing digital senses to the next level, creating robots that can tell when a package is fragile, sniff out an overheated radiator or identify phony Chardonnay.
Hype around AI is running high, and much of the research is in early stages. Here, we look at 10 working models and prototypes of AI with sensory abilities.