Which is better: human or machine intelligence?

Novel Mumbai prototype seeks to bring them together in streets of Dharavi

While many people worrying about the coming of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a team from IIT Bombay and Swansea University's Computational Foundry are setting out this week to find ways of combining machine and human intelligence.

Previously, they have successfully deployed separate AI and human-powered speech assistants in the streets of Dharavi. But, now they are working to combine the benefits of AI with human question-answerers.

The prototypes will be installed in 9 street-side shops and passers-by will be able to try them for free. By pressing a button they can ask a question: first the machine attempts to answer immediately but if it cannot help – or the user wants a better answer – it is sent to remote human helpers. Using a mobile phone app, these Mumbai residents will try to provide a more satisfying result and send the spoken response back to the box.

Professor Matt Jones of the Computational Foundry said, "There's a darkness descending on all things digital at the moment as everyday people worry about AI, big data and the like; our work seeks to show how human and machine intelligences can work together in effective ways".

Professor Anirudha Joshi of the Industrial Design Centre at IIT Bombay also noted, "We've been working with the UK team for several years along with members of the public in Dharavi. This week is the exciting next step in the project and we are all looking forward to the results".

Leading the deployments are Dani Kalarikalayil Raju (of Mumbai) and Thomas Reitmaier (of Swansea). Dani notes the challenges ahead, "We are working with a complex technology and trying to ensure it works in an effective way, understood by locals and easy to use". Reitmaier commented on the value of working with the local community, "Dharavi residents are helping shape the future of spoken language systems not just for Mumbai, or India but potentially the world – their help in this work is vital and much appreciated".

Dharavi Innovation

Notes to Editor

The Computational Foundry is a multimillion pound investment by the EU and Welsh Government in new approaches to digital innovation. More at computationalfoundry.eu.

IIT Bombay is a world leading centre for research and scholarship based in Mumbai, India (idc.iitb.ac.in).

The work is funded by EPSRC via the grant Reshaping the Expected Future, and partially via the CHERISH Digital Economy Centre (cherish-de.uk).

The prototypes being deployed in Mumbai from Tuesday (2nd April) build on peer-reviewed work that will be published in May at ACM CHI 2019 (Glasgow, UK), the top-ranking research conference globally in the field of Human Computer Interaction.

Contact: India: Prof Anirudha Joshi (anirudha@iitb.ac.in);

UK: Prof Matt Jones (matt.jones@swansea.ac.uk).