What ever happened to artificial intelligence?

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Horvitz and fellow researchers also have the ability to turn thousands of Microsoft employees into guinea pigs. The kernel of the Vista operating system includes machine learning to predict, by user, the next application that will be opened, based on past use and the time of the day and week. "We looked at over 200 million application launches within the company," Horvitz says. "Vista fetches the two or three most likely applications into memory, and the probability accuracy is around 85 to 90%."

Desktop application traffic is one thing, but city traffic prediction is another. ClearFlow, a project born of the frustration of sitting in Seattle traffic, examined thousands of routes for people based on the inference of local street traffic flow reacting to highway accidents. Realizing that side streets become clogged when drivers seek to escape highway congestion, Microsoft's Maps.live.com site includes side-street congestion history in rerouting suggestions. Microsoft rolled out this free service for 72 cities in early April.

The excessive hype over artificial intelligence promises in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have made the public weary of unfulfilled promises. While almost every consumer electronic device includes some artificial intelligence tools inside, the box labels never include "artificial intelligence" in the parts list.

Artificial intelligence is not only still around, but in more places than ever. Rather than calling the tools "artificial intelligence," manufacturers just call technologies developed by artificial intelligence research "tools." Just remember that the next time you perform a Web search, write an address on an envelope that the post office sorts automatically, or ask Microsoft Word for a grammar check, artificial intelligence is doing the heavy lifting.

Gaskin writes books (16 so far), articles and jokes about technology and real life from his home office in the Dallas area. Gaskin has been helping small and midsize businesses use technology intelligently since 1986. He can be reached at readers@gaskin.com.

This story, "What ever happened to artificial intelligence?" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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