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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - June 17th, 2022

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, we’ll be looking into future applications of AI, including Chinese satellite hunters that can deceive detection and the benefits and dangers of shopping habits of the future.


China Claims Its New AI Can Hunt Satellites in Space

In news that sounds straight out of a Star Wars movie, China researchers announced this week that they have developed an AI system that has learned the art of deception in a simulated space battle.

“As an experiment, the AI system directed three small satellites to ‘approach and capture’ high-value targets thousands of times,” writes EuroAsian Times contributor Ashish Dangwal. “The report said that the targeted spacecraft learned to sense the impending threat and activated powerful thrusters to avoid the pursuit.”

When tracking satellites that were equipped with detection avoidance, the three so-called hunters deviated from their original path to signal they were abandoning the pursuit. Then, at close distance, one of the hunting satellites would abruptly reverse course and deploy a capturing device.

While a professor of astronautics at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xian called the news “spectacular,” it’s particularly threatening for defense teams of adversarial countries, particularly the United States. Our satellites help with a variety of energy, defense, and attack systems, including missile guidance, critical communication systems, energy grids, and more. While we have a strong satellite defense system in place, new advances in AI already pose massive threats. Whether this Chinese satellite attack AI is actually as effective as the simulation suggests is another question, one that should be taken seriously by our defense teams.

A Look into the Future of Shopping with AI

In less dire future news, shopping is evolving rapidly with the use of AI. The new article “What does the future of shopping with artificial intelligence look like?” points to a number of these changes, beginning with the pandemic’s digital shift.

“The pandemic accelerated the integration of AI into retail as it facilitates contactless shopping,” writes Euronews contributors Evan Bourke & Sarah Hedley Hymers. “With AI ‘computer vision’ it's possible to accurately ‘see’ items in a customer’s basket and calculate their cost, removing the need for check-out staff to manually handle each item to scan its barcode.”

We’re already seeing AI-driven changes play out in big ways through the likes of Amazon Go’s cashierless stores and robot-driven fulfillment centers. For cashierless stores, customers can pick up a product that’s automatically added to a virtual shopping cart, where purchases are validated by passing a checkout terminal for contactless payments, while robot fulfillment centers help dispatch products quickly, safely, and effectively. These types of checkout and fulfillment advances have been especially helpful during the pandemic, where contactless payments and deliveries are essential to safety.

Anonymity in the shopping experience is becoming more and more scarce, and is less convenient – it’s much easier and less time-consuming to go into a store and have your products waiting rather than wandering the isles. While many of these advances are beneficial, they do pose a threat to user data privacy and can lead to annoying and even dangerous targeting practices.

“Today’s AI marketers are gathering (aggregating) large amounts of data from shoppers and searching (mining) it for keywords and information to be able to target consumers with suitable products in future,” continue Bourke & Hymers. “For most consumers, online targeted marketing can be more useful and less annoying than blanket marketing, but the AI shopper can become a victim of spam or something more serious designed to part them with their money if their data is mishandled by advertisers or cybercriminals.”

While there are currently data privacy laws in the EU, such laws are woefully lacking in the U.S. As shopping trends expand with the help of AI, we’ll need to impose similar or even stricter data privacy restrictions to ensure personal data and AI is being used in the right ways to enhance the shopping experience.

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