KW 44: Smart speakers conquer the health market, AI outperforms humans in speech recognition, AI anticipates how instruments are used during surgery


Smart speakers conquer the health market: Systems like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are moving into the health space. ChristianaCare, a hospital network in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, has created an Alexa “skill” to help patients at home. The new Alexa skill, Home Care Coach, is designed as an at-home bridge for patients to their doctor’s office. Doctors can input patient’s medical plans, with information like exercise and medication. Patients can then ask Alexa questions about their health just as they would about the weather.

AI outperforms humans in speech recognition: Following a conversation and transcribing it precisely is one of the biggest challenges in artificial intelligence (AI) research. For the first time, researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have succeeded in developing a computer system that outperforms humans in recognizing such spontaneously spoken language with minimum latency. Alex Waibel, Professor for Informatics at KIT, already developed an automatic live translator that directly translates university lectures from German or English into the languages spoken by foreign students. This “Lecture Translator” has been used in the lecture halls of KIT since 2012. “Recognition of spontaneous speech is the most important component of this system,” Waibel explains, “as errors and delays in recognition make the translation incomprehensible. On conversational speech, the human error rate amounts to about 5.5%. Our system now reaches 5.0%.” Apart from precision, however, the speed of the system to produce output is just as important so students can follow the lecture live. The researchers have now succeeded in reducing this latency to one second. This is the smallest reported latency reached by a speech recognition system of this quality to date, says Waibel.

AI anticipates how instruments are used during surgery: In the operating theater of the future, computer-based assistance systems will make work processes simpler and safer and thereby play a much greater role than today. “However, such support features are only possible if computers are able to anticipate important events in the operating room and provide the right information at the right time,” explains Prof. Stefanie Speidel. She is head of the Department of Translational Surgical Oncology at the National Center for Tumor Diseases Dresden (NCT/UCC) in Germany. Together with the Centre for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-loop (CeTI) at TU Dresden, she has developed a method that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to enable computers to anticipate the usage of surgical instruments before they are used.

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Hamburg Chamber of Commerce suggests pilot program for use of AI systems: The use of AI is attractive for companies and can be lucrative – with the right know-how. From the point of view of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, there is a lot of catching up to do in this area. That is why the Chamber of Commerce has called for an AI pilot program for companies, which could be financed by the government’s Covid stimulus funds.

Škoda FabLab tests and optimises image analysis technology as part of an AI pilot project: Škoda Auto is increasingly focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) applications as it consistently presses ahead with digitalising all areas of the business. In the Škoda FabLab, experts from the car manufacturer’s Central Technical Service department work in various clusters on developing and implementing suitable innovative technologies. Image analysis technology illustrates what possibilities lie ahead: currently, it helps to identify and notify drivers of parking spaces that are available on the factory premises; in the future it could also assist trucks when entering the Škoda site in Mladá Boleslav. Škoda is also testing how image analysis can be used in production for predictive maintenance of various systems.

Survey: Widespread fear of artificial intelligence
Germany: Green party criticizes government’s AI strategy
Working world: AI increases performance pressure and monitoring in the workplace
AI research: ETH Zurich founds interdisciplinary competence center
Nutrition: Startup develops AI nutrient bars to reduce stress

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According to a Bitkom survey, one in five people believe that machines will eventually take over the world.


Decreasing nitrate levels in the groundwater with AI: A research association from Karlsruhe has developed an AI-based model for predictions to help lower the nitrate content in groundwater. Since drinking water is obtained from the groundwater in Germany, too high a nitrate content is a serious problem for human health in many regions. The project “Nitrate Monitoring 4.0 – Intelligent Systems for the Sustainable Reduction of Nitrate in Groundwater” (NiMo 4.0) analyzes and predicts the spatial and temporal distribution of nitrate in the groundwater with the help of an AI system. This allows programs for the protection of groundwater to be carried out in a more targeted manner. The German government is funding the project with 2.478 million euros.

Relying on AI to combat climate change is not enough: In the fight against climate change, many rely on technological solutions. AI systems can help create more accurate climate forecasts and use renewable energies more efficiently. At the same time, their application is itself energy-intensive. The problem lies in the so-called rebound effect: more efficient solutions often change the consumer behavior of societies through cost savings. The consumption saved through AI solutions is replaced by greater consumption of the new products. At the same time, many AI systems are extremely resource-intensive. The relationship between AI and climate change continues to require intelligent human control.


Chamber orchestra tests AI textiles: The Verworner-Krause Chamber Orchestra in Munich is experimenting with musical textiles that respond to body movements. The special suits were developed by research teams from the Universität der Künste zu Berlin (UdK) and the Einstein Center Digital Future. The suit’s technology is based on “in situ polymerisation”, a chemical reaction by means of which the substances are made sensitive to pressure and can generate a series of sounds. The AI in the textiles ensure that the sounds do not arise randomly, but precisely when the conductor indicates them. But the system still needs some tweaking before it can work perfectly.


“Wherever it is a matter of evaluating image, text and language files or of measured values, in short, tracking down patterns in the flood of data, AI is already superior to us humans.”
Author Ulrich Eberl on the potentials and challenges of AI technology.


An algorithm as a master brewer: Researchers at the University of Lucerne in Switzerland designed a beer recipe generator that promises beers of the highest quality. To find out which ingredients go together, the researchers collected over 150,000 recipes from the internet and incorporated 70,000 of them into the software. The algorithm tracked down patterns in the recipes and checked them for combinations of ingredients that go together or not. At the end of many test processes, the algorithm promises to know the perfect combination of ingredients for a beer.

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