IA vs. Coronavirus: How the artificial intelligence is currently helping to fight against COVID-19

Artificial intelligence often raises concerns regarding privacy, bias and deception in areas such as facial recognition and fakevideos. But, in the midst of the outbreak of the coronavirus, some technology companies and scientists are looking to AI for a positive impact. 

What is artificial intelligence? 

This term is something that sounds familiar to most of us, but many times we do not know exactly what it is and how does it work. Well, let’s briefly explain what this term is that can save lives today. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is intelligence carried out by machines. In computer science, an ideal “intelligent” machine is a flexible agent that perceives its environment and carries out actions that maximize its chances of success in some objective or task. Colloquially, the term artificial intelligence is applied when a machine imitates the “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “perceiving”, “reasoning”, “learning” and “problem solving”. 

AI and high technology in general have gotten some bad press lately, but this crisis shows how AI can potentially do a world of good,” said Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle and professor of computer science at the University of Washington. 

Etzioni spoke in a call on Monday organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as part of an announcement of a project called COVID-19 Open Research Dataset. 

The White House announced the initiative along with a coalition that includes AI2, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Microsoft Research, the National Library of Medicine and Kaggle, Google’s proprietary data science and machine learning community. 

Following the White House’s March 16 announcement of a collaborative project with technology companies, Microsoft’s research department, the National Library of Medicine of the United States and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, is what is going to be done, for the first time, with the 29,000 reports on Covid-19 produced since the outbreak was discovered. All of this has a common goal for all researchers: to accelerate knowledge about the new virus and open up ways to combat it as quickly as possible. 

“There is an incredible amount of data in the media, in social networks, in blogs, in Google searches…” says John Brownstein, Director of Innovation at Harvard Medical School and expert in Information Mining, which can be useful in the fight against the coronavirus. And there’s the artificial intelligence and its algorithms to analyze them quickly.

Spain in turn has made its contribution in this fight against COVID-19. In Spain, apps have been created to follow the evolution of the coronavirus and attend to those affected. This is the case of Stop COVID Cat-19, which will help to detect the disease, monitor patients, see how the pandemic is evolving in Catalonia (it creates heat maps at a general level and located by population) , and better support decision making. In Madrid, coronamadrid.com, a website that will become an application, which requests as the previous consent to know the location of the user, will offer preventive measures and evolution at every moment. 

Thus, Google’s Deep Mind division has used its latest algorithms and computing power to try to understand the proteins that could form the virus and help pharmaceutical companies provide treatments. 

Benevolent, which uses Artificial Intelligence to develop drugs for the most complex diseases, is now focusing its efforts on the coronavirus. This is the first time this company has targeted its product to an infectious disease. A few weeks after the outbreak was known, Benevolent was already using its predictive capacity to propose drugs. In addition, because its speed in running calculations and modeling solutions is much faster than routine processing, researchers are using the cloud computing resources and supercomputers of several technology companies to accelerate the development of a vaccine, which is already announced for 2021. 

The Time for Robotics: Healthcare facilities around the world are turning to new technologies to lighten their workload, either by helping to speed up diagnostics or by allowing doctors to monitor patients remotely. 

Infervision, a start-up that designed an artificial intelligence tool to diagnose lung cancer from CT scans, is now using it to detect COVID-19. The manual reading of a CT scan can take 15 minutes, the Infervision tool can process it in 10 seconds. 

The Tytocare start-up offers your patients a number of tools to perform a remote exam with their doctor. The kit includes a stethoscope that allows the doctor to listen to the patient’s heart and lungs and tools to send images of their ears, throat and skin. 

Police drones have also been used to monitor or warn citizens who did not respect the measures of the state of emergency, as has happened in the promenade des Anglais in Nice, or as a means of transportation to move medical tests, as was done between the Xinchang County disease control center and the People’s Hospital. And robots to clean, sterilize or distribute food in hospitals to reduce human-to-human contact 

The initiative, based on AI2’s Semantic Scholar Project, uses natural language processing to analyze scientific papers on coronavirus, including the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The goal is to help researchers analyze and better understand a growing body of academic papers on the coronavirus. As GeekWire reported Monday, the technology helps combat information overload, making it easier for researchers to find relevant studies. This could lead to new insights or approaches to address the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“This is all very practical really,” said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft’s chief science officer, explaining the company’s motivation to participate. “Actually, this is all very practical,” said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft’s chief science officer, explaining the company’s motivation to participate. It’s an important issue for humanity around the world. 

In this episode of the Health Tech Podcast, Alan Boyle of GeekWire, who covered the story, explains the significance of the announcement, and what it could mean in the fight against COVID-19 and future outbreaks. 

Sources: GeekwireLa Vanguardia

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