Newspaper article International New York Times

A.I. Makes the Phone a Personal Assistant

Newspaper article International New York Times

A.I. Makes the Phone a Personal Assistant

Article excerpt

Smartphone apps offer a hint of the possible uses for emerging artificial intelligence technology.

Artificial intelligence is a longstanding science fiction staple that is coming into its own. Google, Facebook, Apple and others are all developing A.I. tools. You can try out some apps today that demonstrate fledgling forms of the technology by smartly, swiftly and automatically doing tasks that would otherwise take lots of effort.

The Roll, for instance, is a new intelligent app that can help organize the thousands of photos that you take with your phone. The app scans a photo library, analyzing each image and trying to spot which ones are similar. It then groups pictures together so copies can be deleted.

The app also assigns a score to each image as a measure of its quality. The artificial intelligence that does this is quite clever: A professionally taken portrait of me scored nearly 90 percent in the app, but a snapshot I had just taken of my cat, paying little heed to lighting and composition, got 20 percent. The software is not flawless -- a professional fashion image that I shot in a studio scored 50 percent -- but it does give a sense of which photos are better or worse, which is handy for knowing what to share online.

Best of all, The Roll recognizes what your images are about. The app automatically tags pictures with options like fashion, beauty and animals. The result is a neatly compiled photo archive that can be browsed by tapping on a tagged collection of images in the app or by searching for a keyword. The Roll is free on iOS.

EasilyDo offers similar A.I.-based organization and tries to do some of the jobs a real-life personal assistant would do. It works by connecting directly to email accounts, such as Gmail and Exchange, and to other services and apps like Facebook, Evernote and LinkedIn.

EasilyDo collects information from those sources so it can send an alert when you need to set off for a meeting scheduled in your calendar. It can also get status updates on flights or track packages, create calendar events based on business emails and tidy up your contacts list.

Many features take some time to learn, but it is well designed and has made my online life a little less stressful. …

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