UK council's latest staff member is an AI called Amelia

Movies like to frame the rise of artificial intelligence as a kind of Terminator-style hostile takeover. The reality is somewhat different.

This week, robots ticked off another box in the “win” category when the UK’s Enfield council in London announced that it has acquired a new AI program called Amelia, which will be used to answer the questions of local residents. To do this, Amelia relies on cutting edge speech recognition, alongside an ability to understand the context of conversations, apply logic, learn, resolve problems — and even sense the emotions of the person it’s speaking with.

Amelia_half_body_2“Amelia has an emotional ontology in which the words exchanged in the customer dialogue are mapped onto a well-established psychological model,” Frank Lansink, European CEO at Amelia’s home company IPsoft, tells Digital Trends. “This allows her to interpret the emotional mood and personality. This means she can react appropriately to the dialogue in terms of what she says and in her facial expression and gestures. Of course, if a customer is going across a specific threshold that indicates the customer is getting angry or frustrated she can escalate to a human colleague. Conversely, a human colleague may be brought in to discuss a new offer or service with a customer who is very happy with the exchange.”

Amelia will start out answering questions on the council’s website, although it is hoped her job capabilities will soon expand elsewhere. Amelia is reportedly 60 percent cheaper than a comparable human worker — which comes in handy when considering that Enfield council, like many organizations around the world, is right now in the middle of cost-cutting measures.

But despite a growing number of reports suggesting that tools like Amelia are helping put the jobs of fleshy mortals at risk, Lansink says we don’t have too much to fear.

“At Enfield council and elsewhere, Amelia plays a complementary role; she supports human staff,” he says. “There have been no job losses because of the introduction of Amelia and there are no plans to reduce human staff. As an assistive technology, Amelia focuses on taking care of routine tasks, so that human staff have more time to tackle the more complex cases – and as a result helps to improve service delivery for all residents. Amelia opens up the possibility for re-designing roles so that she absorbs the mundane, repetitive questions at speed and at very high volume. This in turn allows her human colleagues to focus on exceptions, complex queries, analysis and future design of services for customers.”

Of course, that’s what they said about Skynet!

Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft will collect a sample from asteroid Ryugu by shooting at it

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 will soon touch down on the asteroid Ryugu, where it will collect a sample by shooting a bullet into the soil. The sample will be returned to Earth in 2020 to learn about the formation of asteroids.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.
Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Emerging Tech

Here’s where to watch this week’s SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.