AI Talk: Apple Watch, public option, fast food

Nov. 15, 2019 / By V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD

This week’s AI Talk…

Apple Watch

A new study using Apple Watch heart monitoring capabilities has just been published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, funded by Apple and conducted by Stanford Medicine, is one of the first of this type and magnitude. The study enrolled 419,297 participants in a matter of 8 months; this is an incredible number to be recruited in so short a time! The trick here is participants self-enrolled by downloading an Apple app to participate. What are the key findings? 0.5 percent of the wearers received notification of irregular pulse. This group was further screened for a confirmation of the problem (they were required to wear an ECG patch). Only a third of the population receiving notification could later be confirmed to having a heart problem. Takeaways? Studies of this kind are hard. The usefulness of early stage detection of heart issues, particularly in a younger population, is questionable, as currently there is no science to help with how to treat it. The standard treatment of blood thinners is only administered to high risk cases. Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction. The authors note that their intention is not to prove that the device can be used as a screening tool for a population—but that’s what the device is doing! How to interpret the results and act on it? That’s going to be problematic until better devices are available and more research is done.

Public option

I saw this article in The New York Times this week, an opinion piece, written by multiple authors. We are all bombarded by messages from the 2020 campaign trail: Medicare for All say a few, viable public option cry out a few more. But these authors want a public option for artificial intelligence! What? Yes, you heard it right. What exactly does that mean? Well, the premise of the article is we have ceded AI technology to Big Tech—Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. These companies are increasingly getting a strangle hold on this critical piece of technology, crowding out startups and  free market forces. How to counter that? The authors suggest the U.S. Government needs to step in and provide free access to the enormous store of data—digital commons. Since data is the underpinning resource for AI tech, properly controlled access to such data will level the playing field with Big Tech. They are also recommending that the R&D funding increase to piggyback on the significant amount of research being done by the military to create a new cadre of companies. Interesting opinion! Anyone listening?

Fast food

How in the world is McDonald’s using AI? That’s the question this article in Nanalyze answers! McDonald’s is investing heavily in AI. It gobbled up an Israeli startup company called Dynamic yield, for $300 million. What does this company do? It creates a custom dynamic menu for customers based on their eating preferences! So, you go to the drive-in window and stare at the menu and somehow, they figure out it’s you who has frequented this location. Based on your past profile, the menu shown is custom for you, suggesting items you may want to consume this trip! Well, it turns out it’s not just McDonald’s. The food industry is now embracing AI technology as they think up more innovative ways to keep us eating! What I would really like to see is a response such as this from your personal virtual order taker in the McDonald’s fast lane: “Hello, you already had multiple burgers and shakes this week. How about trying our new PLT (plant, lettuce, tomato) burger? It will be good for your heart and waistline!”

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V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD, is Director of Research for 3M M*Modal and is an AI Evangelist with four decades of experience in AI and Computer Science research.