Artificial intelligence 2018 report: milestones and progress

artificial intelligence illustration
(Last Updated On: January 1, 2019)

Your reality was once someone else’s dream! Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have made science fiction fantasies come true in recent years.

Artificial intelligence literally means the “mechanization” of human thoughts. Intelligent machines are learning to decipher and emulate human thought processes and moving us towards a world in which machines can think independently.

Brief History of AI

The First “Intelligent” Machine:

illustration of a machine

Let’s travel back in time to the Second World War where the great Alan Turing laid the foundation for the first intelligent machine. This great British scientist worked to establish a machine that could break the “Enigma code” used by the German forces to communicate with each other. Alan Turing and his coworkers created the Bombe Machine, which was able to crack Enigma-enciphered messages. Both the Enigma code and Bombe Machine laid the foundation for machine learning.

Turing basically invented the definition of the intelligent machine. His Turing Test is designed to gauge whether a machine can converse with a human in a way that fools the human into thinking they are talking to another real person.

The Term “Artificial Intelligence”

The term “artificial intelligence” was first used in a proposal for a workshop called the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence in 1956. Soon after this conference, two researchers named Allen Newell and Herbert Simon continued an ambitious project to further the study of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The US saw a huge revolution with many research centers being opened across the country devoted to this new technology. Together Newell and Simon developed the first universal problem-solving machine called the General Problem Solver, which performed high-end analysis unlike any human. After that, there was no stopping the development and advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Artificial Intelligence Today:

Artificial intelligence has now taken over our lives. Even if we don’t realize this, we cannot ignore the fact that in one way or the other, we are benefitting from this amazing technology all the time. From huge technology hubs to small cities and towns, AI is beginning to replace human labor and surpass our abilities to solve problems efficiently.

Almost every growing industry has had its share of AI breakthroughs that have contributed to their success.

Have a look at the AI marvels of 2018 in various industries:

Artificial Intelligence Progress in 2018:

facebook portal and ai

Facebook Portal

It was in October 2018 that the marvel of artificial intelligence known as Facebook Portal made it into our homes. The idea behind portal was to connect people in a way that made them feel like they were in the same room. Facebook launched its AI-powered portal with a smart camera that can recognize people in a video call.

The camera can also automatically position and reposition itself at a wider angle so that you are never out of sight, even when moving around. The smart volume even adjusts itself so that you can conveniently hear the sound either from near the portal or far from it. Users can also carry a portal to different rooms throughout their homes. AI has made it possible for us to feel close to our loved ones, even at a distance.

Smart Home Assistants

google home and ai

It’s amazing how an AI-powered assistant can be so helpful to a human. Yes, I’m hinting at the home assistants that have made it possible for people to control gadgets and manage tasks via voice commands. Whether you are trying to roll down the windows or turn off the lights, smart assistants can manage it all. You can even integrate your home appliances into the mix from the comfort of your couch. You can even listen to the news on the go or ask your assistant to call you a taxi.

Artificial intelligence allows these devices to interact with users, just like a human conversation. Users can ask their devices questions and smart assistants can answer them and even suggest more information. These AI marvels have been around since 2017 but they really expanded their reach in 2018.

AI in Health Care

healthcare and ai

While AI is taking over humans tasks, it is also doing its share to help save our lives. A lot of the medical advancements and treatments have been enabled by remarkable improvements in the field of artificial intelligence. Here is just a sneak peek of how artificial intelligence in healthcare evolved in 2018:

Virtual Nurse

virtual nurse

This AI-powered nurse can greatly reduce unnecessary visits to the hospital. These virtual AI nurses are available to respond to queries and problems 24/7 without any delay. They can monitor patients constantly, making sure that everything is under control as well as record information on hospital visits and patient care plans.

Robot-Assisted Surgery

This technique is minimally-invasive; larger incisions are replaced with quarter-inch repeated incisions with miniaturized surgical instruments. This way of combining surgical robotics with the actual surgical experience to improve surgical techniques and patient outcomes is an amazing advance in healthcare.

We are even developing mini mobile robots that enter small incisions and perform tasks that once required human hands and therefore large incisions. These small robots can have sensing and mapping capabilities and can be programmed by doctors to perform treatments. These instruments might eventually reduce the number of major, more damaging surgeries.

Breast Cancer & AI


Breast-cancer-awareness illustration

Google’s deep learning tool made great strides in 2018 when it comes to detecting diseases and tracking their severity. Be it cancer or any other disease, AI is learning to detect illness more efficiently than a pathologist. For example, the Lymph Node Assistant (LYNA) algorithm identified breast cancer tumors with 99 percent accuracy.

Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Google’s AI tool can help identify risk factors for certain diseases with computer vision. Google has used deep learning algorithms that were trained on 284,335 patients to assess cardiovascular risk factors using retinal images (see the research article here). The results were 99 percent accurate, which means that intelligent machines can now accurately predict risk factors for heart attack and strokes.


self driving cars dashboard demo

Transportation is the industry where AI achieved one of its most significant milestones in 2018. Have a look:

Self-Driving Cars and Buses

AI has made huge contributions to the transportation industry by facilitating breakthroughs in futuristic self-driving cars and taxis. Self-driving cars by Tesla came out in 2018 to great public interest. The cars operate on machine learning techniques that familiarize the software with routes, signals, road signs, and anything else that can allow the car to run in autopilot. The directions and navigation come from Google Maps, and the software leads the cars towards their destinations without the need for an active driver. The cars are already being tested and will soon be available to the public.

Autonomous Ferry

autonomous ferry

Rolls-Royce has successfully tested its first autonomous ship that can be remotely controlled. With self-driving cars and buses being in the spotlight for years, the company has come up with an idea to add sea transport to the mix. They plan to roll our their ships in the next six years and have started testing a prototype. The Rolls-Royce Ship intelligence kit includes an array of cameras and sensors that are placed around the ship to help track the environment. The docking procedure is also automated.

AI & Media Companies

Journalism must keep up with technological advancements as well. In 2018, China launched the first AI television news presenter. This invention has been simply jaw-dropping and has taken the AI to a whole new level.

Meet World's First AI News Anchor

World's first AI News anchor started working for Chinese News agency.

Posted by TechEngage on Sunday, December 9, 2018

This news presenter made its debut in November. It was trained through a machine learning technique that monitored and summarized breaking news bulletins. The AI anchor’s first news was about himself in which he said:

“The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies. I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted. I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences.”

This robot is named as Zhang Zhao. This robot was developed with the Chinese search engine This event marked the first time a robot replaced a human newscaster. However, the AI robot made its position clear in its very first bulletin saying:

“Before we go, I’d like to send my good wishes to all of the journalists across the country. As an AI anchor under development, I know there is a lot for me to improve.”


Artificial intelligence took commerce to the next level in 2018.

Have a look:

Alibaba ET Brain

Alibaba ET brain illustration

Alibaba ET brain is an intelligent AI platform for solving extremely complex social and business problems. The Chinese retail giant Alibaba hopes to control and take over future cities through artificial intelligence.

Alibaba’s City Brain project started in the city of Hangzhou, in China’s Zhejiang province. The system stores data about the cities and everyone in them in the cloud and hopes to use this data to more efficiently control new smart cities through AI. It is currently working to solve traffic issues around the city.

While the data collected is owned by the city, the software is provided by the Alibaba group. Alibaba is looking to collaborate with small companies to sell its data-gathering and machine learning resources. The project has about 120,000 developers on board as well as 2700 academic institutions and businesses from around 77 countries.

“Every city has the potential of becoming a smart city as long as its data resource can be fully activated by City Brain,” says Wanli Min, a machine learning researcher at Alibaba Cloud.

Cashier-less Stores and AI

cashier-less stores concept

The idea of cashier-less stores is not new. Automated checkout has been around for a few years. But the goal seems to be to reduce the involvement of humans to zero. Some of the more sophisticated cashier-less stores are now moving towards a complete AI-powered infrastructure, where there would be minimal or no human involvement. Companies like Amazon and Walmart have even begun to put robots charge of restocking shelves, replacing human workers. You can walk in an Amazon Go store, for example, and shop without ever dealing with a human employee.

Ads Targeting Through AI

Have you ever been surprised to find the advertisements on your social media feed and or smart devices that match your preferences exactly? That’s because ad agencies can collect and your search data and personal information and analyze it via AI algorithms. Then these algorithms choose and display the most relevant products to sell you. The idea is not new, but the execution became more sophisticated in 2018 when companies began to purchase more data that allowed them to learn more about their audiences.

AI in Education

artificial intelligence and education in 2018

AI has dramatically influenced the education sector by providing new tools that shift some of the workload away from teachers.

One improvement has been the creation of virtual classrooms and AI teachers that can assist students anywhere in the world at any time.

These tutoring plans are so advanced that they can manage multiple learning styles and help a wider range of students than a human teacher could. However, the education sector has been slow to adopt AI.

AI in Smartphones

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Artificial intelligence in smartphones is not new. It’s been in your phone as Google Assistant or Siri for years. But in 2018, AI in smartphones got a huge boost and continues to grow beyond the ability to perform small tasks in smartphones. AI will be the core of smartphone technology in a few years.

In 2018, AI played a significant role in improving the ability to take photos using a mobile camera. Computational photography changed the way smartphone cameras work and visual processing changed the way we use cameras. Artificial intelligence is even helping to improve battery life on phones and identify objects in photos.

Google Lens

Google Lens 670x391 - Artificial intelligence 2018 report: milestones and progress

Google took Google Lens to a whole new level last year after is integrated new features. Lens is a visual search tool that was initially rolled out for Pixel devices but later became available for iOS and Android devices too. It allows the user to take a photo or view a real-time scene with a camera and learn more about the objects it recognizes.

For example, you can zoom in on someone’s picture to get a closer look at their shoes or dress and then use the search feature to find out where they got the item. The improved features also allow users to find lookalikes via Google image search integration.

AI in Pixel Phones

AI in Pixel phones 670x391 - Artificial intelligence 2018 report: milestones and progress

Google has been on the cutting edge of AI when it comes to phones. Their smart Top Shot camera feature converts your the images into an HDR picture which chooses and stores the best shot in high resolution and stores the rest as low res backups.

The Pixel also allows for super high-res zooming without a drop in the image’s quality, thanks to the AI-powered feature that maintains the image’s resolution. The same technology went into the Night Sight mode on the Pixel 3‘s camera, which analyzes all the stacked images to pick up the bright spots in each picture, combines them and produces a final bright picture even in the darkest backgrounds. Isn’t that lit?

AI in Messaging

smart replies on android messages app

Smart messages and replies rolled out on multiple platforms in 2018, including Gmail, Google docs, and the Android messaging app. This technology suggests phrases and sentences that suit the context of your conversation or previously replies. The smart software learns your most common responses and the situations in which you use them in to suggest the most appropriate smart reply and save you typing time.

AI to Improve Battery Life

AI to improve battery life 670x391 - Artificial intelligence 2018 report: milestones and progress

This year the Android team worked with the Alphabet’s DeepMind to use artificial intelligence to provide customers better battery life with a new feature known as “Adaptive Battery.” The AI keeps track of your battery consumption and its routines. It automatically shuts down applications in the background that you have not been using for a while. This adaptive battery also adjusts your phone’s brightness based on your phone usage habits.

The adaptive battery feature spends battery only on the applications that you frequently use, reducing the CPU usage by an average of 30 percent. The smart feature learns about the most used apps on your phone and manages the battery accordingly to avoid unnecessary power loss.

Motion Photo Technology in Pixel Phones

Among its many smartphone advances, Google also introduced Motion Photo – a technology in Pixel phones that allows you to capture a short moving image of up to 3 seconds’  in order to choose the best shot when the subject is moving. After launching an iOS app Google also made it available to Android users as well. Google used a mixture homographic model to create this technology.

AI and Disaster Predictions

The planet is constantly in flux, exposing us to new environmental challenges. Be it the weather conditions or the continuously moving earth plates, the world is moving towards instability with every passing day. AI is playing its key role in making a once unpredictable situation a little more predictable. To deal with these events, Google has come up with an AI-based experience that could help forecast the occurrence of natural disasters. 2018 marked the year when Google published the first paper of its findings in this matter.

For example, a Google team of AI experts is working to predict the aftershocks of earthquakes based on mathematical calculations from previous events. This technology might help predict the probability of aftershocks and protect people from further injury.

Human-like Speech Using AI:

Tacotron 2 is a natural text-to-speech system created by Google to generate human-like speech from text using neural networks. These neural networks are trained using speech examples and text transcripts. Google is still working to achieve better results as it is facing noise issues along with some pronunciation complexities which will hopefully be improved by the end of 2019. Google has improved the real-time audio in its assistant, which is a milestone in itself in human-like speech capabilities.


AI and machine learning techniques were game-changers in 2018. However, they raised some serious challenges too, such as security and privacy threats – but that’s a debate for another time. In the end, 2018 was the year when artificial intelligence found it footing in our everyday lives.

What do you think a future with AI looks like? What are you looking forward to watching machines learn in the coming years? 

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