Local researchers developing new technology to improve artificial intelligence

SPOKANE, Wash. — Artificial Intelligence technology is expanding in the Inland Northwest.

Many people already rely on A.I. using their smartphones, Alexa and at the self-checkout, but local developers want to see the technology reach new heights.

The new technology — Sallie — is on a mission to take A.I. to the next level.

“All of these really simple problems that A.I. has yet to solve, and those are the things we’re working at,” said Charles Simon. He’s the CEO for Future A.I. which just opened a new tech hub in Spokane.

Most people have dealt with common problems when they talk to Siri or Alexa, and they can’t understand what they’re being asked to do.

“You ask Alexa to do something, and as long as you’re on the script, she works really well,” Simon added. “As soon as you ask a question that’s off the script, not so good.”

A team of local creators wants to solve some of these hiccups and improve the technology’s capabilities. Engineers are creating technology that will better understand sight, sound and touch… all human-like characteristics, as humans in the workforce are hard to come by.

“The number of people in the labor force is still down,” said Ryan Herzog, an Associate Professor of Economics at Gonzaga University. “There’s a lot of technologies that are coming down the pipeline that can alleviate these worker shortages, but they don’t come without some concerns and some ethical challenges that we’re going to face.”

He says automation can help fill some of these shortages, but he does worry about what will be lost at the cost of advancements.

“Autonomous vehicles — we all know the story of the truck driver shortages. Are we at the stage where the public’s willing to accept autonomous trucks?” Herzog asked.

Simon says he doesn’t want his technology to take jobs away.

“The artificial intelligence that we’re working on is to augment the people. It’s not here to replace the people,” Simon said.

The extra help could still be a double-edged sword.

“A large number of employment opportunities for drivers need to be shifted to something else,” Simon added.

As society shifts and becomes even more reliant on technology, A.I. is improving. “Sallie” is filing away knowledge for the future .

The developers working on this technology are all recent local college grads. Future A.I. is keeping developers here in the Inland Northwest with hopes to see tech opportunities grow in the community.

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