Can You See Me Now? – When AI Wears a Mask
Author: Jason Hansen
What Masks and AI Takeover Have to Do With Intelligent Workplaces
“Shall we play a game?”
Growing up in the 80’s taught me all I need to know about artificial intelligence: Computers will become sentient with childlike naivety and try to take over the world. Certainly, it is implied with this question found in the movie WarGames where a military supercomputer threatens humanity. If a network like Skynet becomes self-aware, will cyborgs take over as suggested in the movie series Terminator?
Living in Today’s World of AI
Indeed, these are the stories that movies are made of, but in reality, we’ve been living in a world of AI and machine learning for quite some time without world takeover. Just look at the suggestions made on Netflix or Facebook that are tailored to the user. And, there’s never been a better time for a little help from the artificially intelligent than now – where flexible schedules in a hybrid workplace means getting stuff done from home (where we’re used to AI,) to the office (where intelligent spaces are now a necessity,) and to anywhere in-between. Perhaps I’ve learned more about AI living in 2020 than from movies in the 1980’s. So, what does intelligence in the workplace look like?
Seamless Intelligence Built In
Embedded intelligence should be seamless. It’s not something you should have to think about, because if you have to think too hard, then the technology is more of a burden than a help. With most people working from home right now and 98% of future meetings including remote participants once we return to office, name labels are important. Equally important are the room capacity alerts and room availability guidance when we are in the office. All of this comes from the AI built in our devices providing facial recognition, people count, and our recently announced room booking.
Cisco’s AI Makes Life Easier, Safer, and More Productive
While we implemented AI in our devices some time ago, the world continues to evolve. So, what happens when we wear our masks in the office? Cisco Webex Rooms has designed a people detection algorithm that is based on a powerful machine learning process. It means our model trains itself in adapting to “face variations” that can range from sunglasses, to safety helmets, and to protection masks. It has also learned by itself to recognize people even when they turn their back to the camera. This means the effort to evolve on these variations is minimal.
Today, once the platform recognizes you, you can wear your face mask, and your name label will continue to track you even as you move around the room. Additionally, whether you have name labels or not, the intelligence built-in will continue to account for the number of people in a space and always provide the capacity alerts and room guidance desired if enabled. Face mask or not – Cisco has you covered.
While I can’t speak to whether the supercomputer in WarGames or Skynet in The Terminator were compliant with privacy, consent, and data protection, my guess is that they were not. I can reassure you that Cisco Webex’s facial recognition is – and that includes being GDPR compliant. This means that unlike the AI of the movies, Cisco’s AI won’t take over the world. It’s simply in place to make life easier, safer, and more productive in a time where we could all use a little help with how we work.
Hybrid Workplace and Bridging the Gap Through AI
A hybrid workplace shouldn’t mean a “hybrid experience;” rather a consistent one. If we must completely re-learn how to work, productivity and personal peace of mind would decrease. Instead, providing a consistent experience – one that evolves as the world does – allows for people to do what they do best. And, that is to thrive by building on our human connections and flourishing in our core competencies. Technology should foster this culture and enable well-being. I believe at Cisco we are doing this today through AI that bridges the gaps realized in our new paradigm. And if we’re being specific on how we leverage this in our devices, if one asks, “Is Webex Rooms the most powerful people count mechanism that exists?” – Apart from some humans themselves, I would probably say, yes.