Vicarious is a tech company that wants to teach a computer to think like a human, and so far they’ve been able to help the machine tap into its imagination. The software is able to visualize cows of varying sizes and poses, then draw crude digital renderings, all of which are pulled straight from its “mind.”
This type of technology is still years from being fully-formed, but it could give machines the ability to translate foreign languages, identify objects in a photograph, and drive unmanned vehicles through traffic. However, there are also those who worry about the ethical implications, such as self-motivated military drones and other scenarios that could involve “robots on the loose.”
In the same way that children learn, Vicarious’s software started with the basics: first, how to recognize simple shapes and text. Now it’s beginning to understand texture and lighting, with the hope being that it will eventually learn how to move within the physical world and understand cause-and-effect relationships.
Companies such as Facebook and Google are very interested in what may come of the technology and have both heavily invested in artificial intelligence research. Despite the interest, even some of the most serious investors have yet to see the labs that belong to Vicarious, and a similar competitor in the UK called DeepMind.
While the technology is no doubt an exciting prospect, the amount of mystery that surrounds the key players has made some people understandably nervous. Vicarious co-founders D. Scott Phoenix and Dileep George say it’s can be used to protect devices from hackers, but you can’t help but wonder why there is a need for such extreme secrecy.