How does Artificial intelligence (AI) fit into the plans of a company that bestrides the worlds of both software and hardware? For many, “AI” references the work of building new services around search, retail sales, or social media. But thanks to its broad scope, HP can use AI to much wider effect. We checked in recently with Dr. Tony Lewis, Vice President and Global Head of HP’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Compute Lab, to learn more about HP Lab’s vision for using AI to build next-generation cyber-physical systems, why this is an especially exciting time to be working in the field, and how his lab is also investigating several other emerging areas of computer research.
HP: Most major tech companies are now investing heavily in AI research. What would you say is different about HP Labs’ approach?
Fundamentally, it’s that we have the ability to connect to physical systems through our printers, PCs, and other edge devices, so we can use AI in a very distinctive and powerful way. In addition to that, we’re asking how we can use AI to connect with people at a deep physiological and emotional level. We believe that this dual focus can help take HP in some new and very exciting directions.
HP: AI has been a topic of research for decades now. What has changed recently in our expectations for what it can achieve?
What’s changed is that AI is now so easy to do. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to build anything substantial, you had to do it from scratch. We also didn’t have the data that we use to teach AI algorithms in anything like the volumes that we have today. Now we have that data along with a growing set of AI tools developed by companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft that are making artificial intelligence networks much easier to build. That makes it a really exciting time to be doing AI research and these companies and others have already done a fantastic job of exploring the use of AI in certain well-defined domains.
But there are many more ways that we can apply AI to the world. Our specialty at HP Labs, for example, is in building physical systems, be they based around printers, other edge devices, or high-performance computers. So we’re asking: how can we enhance these physical devices with artificial intelligence to allow people to be more effective at what they want to do?
HP: Can you describe some of the specific areas where you are conducting AI research?
One is predictive analytics, where we are using AI to analyze sensor data and predict issues before they arise. We're already applying that to our printers, but it can be applied to many other research domains.
Another topic that interests us is applying AI to data that we gather about people’s physiological states in order to help them achieve their goals. We are looking at that across multiple dimensions in ways that are very different from other major research labs.
A last area that I’ll pick out it is what we call memory organization. One of the most important things we bequeath to those who come after us are records of our life experiences. But we can have tens of thousands of images on a PC or phone and no time to organize them into collections that convey the emotional power of an event. What if we could do that automatically and in a way that would help preserve our most powerful memories for future generations?