Healthcare is about to get a lot smarter.
The same Google company that taught a computer how to master the ancient game of Go has just created a new division completely dedicated to solving healthcare issues, and it's kicking things off in the UK with at least one mobile app. We've detailed everything you need to know below.
Google DeepMind: What is it?
Google bought DeepMind Technologies for $650 million in January 2014.
Prior to Google, DeepMind's website described the company as a "cutting edge artificial intelligence company". It had created a neural network capable of learning how to play video games in the same way as humans. Google’s purchase of DeepMind would presumably help it to compete against other companies focused on deep learning, including Facebook, which hired an NYU professor to lead its artificial intelligence lab.
Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg, and Mustafa Suleyman founded DeepMind Technologies in London in 2010. Google only acquired it after Hassabis demonstrated his program with superhuman gaming abilities. That program, according to The New Yorker, combines two forms of brain-inspired machine intelligence: a deep neural network and a reinforcement-learning algorithm.
Google DeepMind: Did it teach a computer to master Go?
Most people heard of Google DeepMind in early 2016, when its AlphaGo program beat a human professional Go player. Google DeepMind taught a computer program the ancient game of Go, and its highly-intelligent computer program, AlphaGo, is capable of winning the game every time - even when pitted against three-time European Go Champion Fan Hui.
The point of Go is to control at least 50 per cent of the board. Needless to say, it’s difficult to do. Now, in order for computers to play, they must be programmed to recognised all the variations. Chess, in comparison, has 10 to the power of 60 possible plays. In fact, chess was mastered by a computer game in 1997, but the first classic game to be mastered by a computer was Noughts and Crosses (also called tic-tac-toe) in 1952.
Interestingly, one day before DeepMind made its announcement, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, wrote on Facebook that his AI team was getting close to achieving the exact same breakthrough. He even said the researcher who had been working on the project sat "about 20 feet” from his desk: “I love having our AI team right near me so I can learn from what they’re working on.”
Anyway, Google made a lot Go players happy with its achievement. More importantly, its research from the project could affect how computers search for a sequence of actions. And, as Google said, that's just one more rung on the ladder toward solving artificial intelligence. This type of research, for instance, could further facial-recognition processing and predictive search.
READ MORE: Google just taught a computer to master Go
Google DeepMind: What is DeepMind Health?
DeepMind Health is a division within DeepMind.
While DeepMind is focused on solving computer intelligence, DeepMind Health is focused on healthcare issues. It is collaborating directly with "frontline clinicians to develop technology that helps improve patient care." The company said is tackling healthcare because it’s an area where DeepMind Health believes it can "make a real difference to people’s lives across the world".
Google DeepMind: How will DeepMind Health tackle healthcare?
DeepMind Health said it is starting in the UK, with the National Health Service, to ensure that "clinicians get the tools and support they need to continue providing world-class care." DeepMind Health aims to support clinicians by delivering the "technical expertise needed to build and scale technologies that help them provide the best possible care to their patients." The initiative thus far relies on smart mobile apps.
Google DeepMind: What are the first DeepMind Health apps?
The first app is called Streams. It can help detect acute kidney injuries that might go unnoticed. DeepMind also plans to integrate technology from a task management app, called Hark, to better spot patients who are at risk of become progressively worse.
This is early-days territory, however. DeepMind Health said Streams is still very early in its development and has only completed two small-scale pilots thus far. But it will continue to work on Streams and aims to do some peer-reviewed research this year. Oddly, artificial intelligence is not part of the early pilots. DeepMind Health said it’s "too early to determine where AI could be applied."
Nevertheless, the division is "excited" about possibility of using AI in the future.
Google DeepMind: Want to know more?
Watch the video above and check out DeepMind Health's website.