An AI program beat students in a reading comprehension test. Source: Android Authority

Research on artificial intelligence has been on the rise over the last few years. We have seen major leaps made in this area and now more than ever before, the idea of having intelligent robots is no longer a dream. An artificial intelligence program built by Microsoft and Alibaba has beaten students in a Stanford test. It was a simple reading comprehension test but the implications of this couldn’t be more significant.

It is the first time that a machine has managed to outperform a human being in anything. Artificial intelligence experts at the university designed the test. The Alibaba robot was the first to go and it beat all students who came up against it in the reading test. According to Luo Si, the chief scientist of natural language at Alibaba, the success of these tests marked a major milestone in the development of AI technology. He added that it was an honor to be a part of this experience.

Alibaba has invested billions in AI research. Source: Android Authority

Alibaba has invested billions in AI research. The Chinese e-commerce giant sees AI as an important part of its future operations. Si noted that there are many potential applications for the new technology including customer service, tutorials, and even in medical care where people can get responses to their inquiries almost instantly.

The AI has already been deployed too. Alibaba issued a statement noting that it has managed to use the AI during its shopping bonanza dubbed “Single’s Day.” The company says that the AI was used to respond to customer care queries and the experience was quite commendable.

AI has already been used during Alibaba’s shopping bonanza dubbed “Single’s Day.” Source: CNBC

The comprehension test administered was quite simple. According to AI experts who were involved in developing it, it was simply a question of reading a given text and answering questions after that. For example, students were required to read a Wikipedia article about the history of British TV and later answer 10 questions about what they read. The same test was also applied to the robot. The robot read the page and answered the 10 questions. The results of the robot were better compared to humans.

A Microsoft spokesman who was part of the team doing the tests said that this was a big benchmark in the journey of AI over the last few years. However, he maintained that the true value of artificial intelligence lies in its applications in harmony with humans. AI is already disrupting many traditional industries. The launch of self-driving cars, for example, is promising to revolutionize the entire transport industry while other technologies are now playing massive roles in helping farmers adopt better farming practices.

There are also many major companies in the world that have invested in AI research. Samsung, Tencent, and Facebook are some of the major corporations that have shown significant interest in this area. Some countries too are strategically putting resources together to fund AI research. China, for example, is laying down the foundation to build an AI industry worth $150 billion in the next few years. The Stanford test marks a big step forward for AI but there is still more room for improvement.