Artificial Intelligence: How Close Are We to Real AI?

12/10/2015 22:39 BST | Updated 12/10/2016 10:12 BST

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was coined more than half a century ago, but it has only started to become a reality in the last couple of decades. This got us thinking at How It Works - how close are we to real AI? Today, robots are working alongside humans in many hotels and factories while driverless cars have started to emerge, having had many successful test drives already.

Inspite of most of the general public appreciating the incredible engineering that goes into AI, the technology itself doesn't have the best public image due to the constant threat it represents in sci-fi films. People really are worried that AI will one day take over the world and wipe out the human race.

Although the scenarios portrayed in these movies are sometimes designed without a shred a fact, some of them are based on technology that has been developed to some extent. We have come close to replicating some of Hollywood's most famous AI, turning fiction into fact in some cases.

C-3PO is fluent in six million forms of communication. His main job in Star Wars is to assist in etiquette and translation, so that meetings between different cultures go off without a hitch. Real world companion robots are starting to take off, one of which is Pepper that is on sale now in Japan. It has learnt to recognise human emotions by studying video and can therefore recognise when you look sad. If this is the case it will try and cheer you up, often by suggesting you play some music.

Disney's WALL-E was left on Earth to tidy up the planet after humans left it in a mess. Although not as cute as Disney's creation, smart vacuums such as the Roomba are the first examples of domestic learning robots; over 10 million units have been sold already.

2015's sci-fi thriller Ex-Machina showcased one of science fictions most famous incarnations, the life like robot. With human looks and almost human intelligence, this is the type of AI most feared by people around the world. The Geminoid is an almost exact copy of robotics engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro, who designed the robot to study human-robot interaction. Silicon rubber was used for the skin in his initial design, but there is hope that 3D printed skin will soon allow robots to be created that are almost indistinguishable from humans, in their looks at least.

However no need to panic just yet, robots living, walking and working next to us like in the movies is still a little way off. What currently exists is very much under human control requiring us to push the start button and plug the intelligence into charge at the end of an energy sapping day.

This post was first in from How it Works magazine. You can subscribe to How It Works and get each issue delivered direct to your door.

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