Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Swedish tourists miss island due to GPS typo"

A July 28 story from the Associated Press relates how a couple wanting to drive to the island of Capri misspelled the name in their GPS and wound up "some 400 miles (660 kilometers) away in the northern industrial town of Carpi."

Sometimes technology is only as smart as its users. How sophsticated would an AI have to be to have prevented this mishap?

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

1 comment:

Don Searing, PhD, Syncere Systems said...

From an AI developers standpoint, it is not necessarily a problem of sophistication, but of lack of information in either of a number of ways.

Scenario 1: Contextual knowledge of the Couple-
If an AI agent was actively used by the couple as an assistant (e.g., helping with tasks such as time-planning, scheduling, possibly travel arrangements), then I think you could say this would never have happened since the AI would be aware of all of the context surrounding this vacation- hotel reservations, requests for information on local events and points of interest. This type of AI system would not have to be very sophisticated to recognize a user typo as out of the pattern it had been establishing.

Scenario 2: Contextual knowledge of travel in Italy-
In this scenario a system, not necessarily even an AI, would be able to prompt the users if they enter a destination in their GPS that might not be somewhere usually searched for (based on visitor statistics, etc.) It could then prompt, in a manner familiar to users of Google, Which of these destinations did you mean... and provide a list of closely matching results to their search terms. You could even program the GPS unit to use its internal knowledge to prompt a user as outlined above when a user is greater than 100 KM from home or any other previous search. Or if it is a GPS unit in a rental car, you could set that sort of functionality on for all users.

Scenario 3- System could provide the humans using it with contextual data.

Probably the easiest approachwould be for the GPS system to contain notes on destinations it returns from general searches like that, for example (Capri- island by the coast. Carpi- small town in interior of northern Italy). It is far less likely had such cues been given to the users that they would have made the same mistake.