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Smarter Than You Think - Computers Learn to Listen, and Some Talk Back - NYTimes.com Reprints This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the "Reprints" tool that appears next to any article. Visit www.nytreprints.com for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now. June 24, 2010 Computers Learn to Listen, and Some Talk Back By STEVE LOHR and JOHN MARKOFF Hi, thanks for coming, the medical assistant says, greeting a mother with her 5-year-old son. Are you here for your child or yourself? The boy, the mother replies. He has diarrhea. Oh no, sorry to hear that, she says, looking down at the boy. The assistant asks the mother about other symptoms, including fever ( slight ) and abdominal pain ( He hasn t been complaining ). She turns again to the boy. Has your tummy been hurting? Yes, he replies. After a few more questions, the assistant declares herself not that concerned at this point. She schedules an appointment with a doctor in a couple of days. The mother leads her son from the room, holding his hand. But he keeps looking back at the assistant, fascinated, as if reluctant to leave. Maybe that is because the assistant is the disembodied likeness of a woman s face on a computer screen a no-frills avatar. Her words of sympathy are jerky, flat and mechanical. But she has the right stuff the ability to understand speech, recognize pediatric conditions and reason according to simple rules to make an initial diagnosis of a childhood ailment and its seriousness. And to win the trust of a little boy. file:///T|/Courses/Emerging%20Tech/Fall%202010/test.htm (1 of 11) [8/19/2010 2:50:38 PM]
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Smarter Than You Think - Computers Learn to Listen, and Some Talk Back - NYTimes.com Our young children and grandchildren will think it is completely natural to talk to machines that look at them and understand them, said Eric Horvitz, a computer scientist at Microsoft s research laboratory who led the medical avatar project, one of several intended to show how people and computers may communicate before long. For decades, computer scientists have been pursuing artificial intelligence the use of computers to simulate human thinking. But in recent years, rapid progress has been made in machines that can listen, speak, see, reason and learn, in their way. The prospect, according to scientists and economists, is not only that artificial intelligence will transform the way humans and machines communicate and collaborate, but will also eliminate millions of jobs, create many others and change the nature of work and daily routines. The artificial intelligence technology that has moved furthest into the mainstream is computer
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2011 for the course MGT 3743 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at Georgia Tech.

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