What do Furbies and cloud computing have in common?

The dawn of AI is here and it’s all possible because of cloud computing.

Let’s go back to the ’90s when Furbies became popular. The little toy fur ball had a small bit of Artificial Intelligence. It may be hard to believe, but that little guy had more computing power than the Apollo 11. Yes, the spacecraft that landed man on the moon. Fresh out of the box these AI fur balls would talk Furbish, the language of the Furby. After children had interacted with them for a while, their Furbies would learn certain English words. Furbies could even interact with each other if you had multiple units. Furbish was translated into 24 languages.

Furbies were not only cute (if a cross between a hamster and an owl is your idea of cute), the fact that they were able to “learn” a few words made them endearing. However, they obviously didn’t show the intelligence or the discernment of a human. But that would change a few years later when in 1997 a team of programmers and chess experts programed a machine called Deep Blue. The supercomputer had enough reason and logic to beat World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov at chess. The Russian had the upper hand the first few games, but Deep Blue progressed and eventually beat the chess Grandmaster, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time.

Watson is our next step in the progression of AI. Watson, an artificially intelligent computer system, was programed to be able to listen to a question (think Siri on your smartphone) and then answer that question. To prove how brilliant this AI was, in 2011 TV quiz game Jeopardy had Watson on a show and matched it up against two of Jeopardy’s greatest champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. At the conclusion of the competition, Ken and Brad lost to Watson.

Enter cloud computing. For those who are familiar with the cloud, you know that it’s not just a buzz word. The platform is essentially thousands of remote servers working together in a centralized location. Users can then access the data either created or stored on those servers via a device such as a handheld device or laptop.

You probably see where I am going with this. The next logical step for AI is to let the cloud do the computing at lightning speeds, like Watson did on Jeopardy, and then send that information back to the device or AI being, such as the character Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek. We can see an early concept with CogniToy’s green dino. The green dino is a child’s toy about the size of a teddy bear that can carry on a conversation on different topics, tell a story, and even answer age-related questions. The intelligence grows or matures with the child. In fact, the green dino even has the ability to discern whether or not the answer is a little too mature for the age of the child, at which point the toy will tell the child to go ask his mom the question. All of this “smart” dino’s responses are computed in the cloud.

Currently, the only limitation of AI is being able to reach a Wi-Fi connection. However, as municipal wireless networks (where the entire city has access to a Wi-Fi signal) become more and more popular, this AI obstacle may not be around for much longer, allowing AI to continue to grow intellectually.

With giant tech companies such as Google buying up AI startups and cloud computing advancing so rapidly, it’s reasonable to expect ongoing funding for AI—and artificial intelligent beings in our lifetime. All thanks to cloud computing.