A map of the “Works in Progress” exhibition at the World Economic Forum, China. The exhibition featured technologies of the future.

Technologies of the future from World Economic Forum, China

Stephane Kasriel
Jul 7, 2016 · 4 min read
  • Artificial emotional intelligence: A Carnegie-Mellon project, the Socially Aware Robot Assistant, or SARA, picks up on physical and verbal cues to determine whether the human being is comfortable or not. It adjusts its responses based on how much rapport it is developing with the human. At a conference like WEF, Sara can help facilitate introductions between conference goers — and because it has a level of “emotional intelligence,” it can be more effective at that job than many humans!
  • Humanoid robots: Embodying Siri-like capabilities in a realistic-looking humanoid robot produces a disturbingly uncanny effect, I found. But others at the WEF were quite taken by this robot. Some were even flirting with her!
  • Robot learning for complex skills: The intersection of artificial intelligence and robotics is already producing some amazing results, like humanoid robots that learn how to walk and open doors by applying AI to the problem of moving their limbs effectively — much as human infants learn. At WEF, I watched a demo of a non-humanoid robots, including one called MyBot that was learning how to make a cup of coffee. For humans, that’s a simple task, but it combines hundreds of smaller tasks, each of which has to be learned. More impressively, another robot called PiBot is learning to fly a plane eventually, starting with piloting a flight simulator. To program a robot to do this would be complex, but with the right learning algorithms, a robot could learn on its own much more efficiently.
  • Remote control via brain-computer interfaces: Sphero is a remote-controlled robot sphere that you might have encountered at a toy store recently (it’s the basis for a popular Star Wars-themed robot, BB8). Normally Sphero is controlled by smartphone. At WEF, though, I got to see a demo of this robot ball being controlled by brainwaves. People would put on a brainwave-reading headset and be told “move the ball down the track.” It was hard to do at first, but after concentrating for a few minutes, you could actually get the ball to move. It’s a pretty simple demo for now (the ball only moves in one direction), but it’s intriguing to imagine future brain-controlled interfaces as this technology matures.
  • MongoDB: The key to the rapid advance in AI over the past five years has been deep learning systems built by processing huge amounts of data. And in order to process data, you need to collect it and store it. MongoDB is one of the most popular database technologies for storing unstructured “NoSQL” data.
  • Data mining: A subset of machine learning, data mining is all about extracting relevant and interesting insights out of huge, disorganized datasets. Learn how to do data mining now, and you’ll be in a good position to play a key role in tomorrow’s tech world.

Work: Reimagined

The Future of Work

Stephane Kasriel

Written by

CEO of @Upwork, the largest freelancing website & co-chair of World Economic Forum Future of Gender, Edu & Work Council. Previous exec Paypal, Work4Labs, Zong.

Work: Reimagined

The Future of Work