Google’s DeepMind: From Game Player to Healthcare App

AI goes beyond gaming to helping our health system.

Artificial Intelligence is one of the hottest current scientific research areas. One of the most prominent projects in this discipline is Google DeepMind:

The algorithms we build are capable of learning for themselves directly from raw experience or data, and are general in that they can perform well across a wide variety of tasks straight out of the box. Our world-class team consists of many renowned experts in their respective fields, including but not limited to deep neural networks, reinforcement learning and systems neuroscience-inspired models.

DeepMind was founded in 2010 by Demis Cassabas – an artificial intelligence researcher, Shane Legg  – a machine learning researcher and Mustafa Suleyman – an entrepreneur in London. Their company was bought by Google in 2014.

The team at DeepMind has done some amazing research in its field and continues to expand on its learning methods. One of their most famous feats is enabling their AI DeepMind to successfully play the game of Go. The team published a paper in Nature magazine in January of this year: Mastering the game of Go with deep neural networks and tree search. The team explain why the game of Go is so challenging for artificial intelligence: it contains a very large search space and a high level of difficulty of evaluating board positions and moves.In this paper the team uses value networksto do the analysis and evaluation of the board positions, and policy networksto choose the next move. These are a set of neural networks which are trained by human players and self-play games.

The researchers also introduced Monte Carlo tree search programs which enables AlphaGo(this form of AI neural networks) to achieve a winning rate of 99.8% against other Go playing programs. Not only that, AlphaGo played the European human Go champion and won by 5 games to 0. This was a revolutionary moment – never before had a machine beaten a human player at Go.

DeepMind is taking things to the next level by announcing the ultimate Go challenge: AlphaGo will play the best international Go player of the last ten years, the legendary Lee Sedol, in Seoul South Korea. The games will take place between the 9-15th March 2016 so watch out for updates.

Not only is Google DeepMind creating a fantastic player, it is now also contributing to UK healthcare. DeepMind is developing software with the National Health Service which will send alerts via a smartphone app to the medical staff, alerting them of patients at risk of deterioration and death through kidney failure. The app – called Hark – is supported by Lord Darzi, the director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London.

Hark has been under development for the past five years under the direction of Darzi, and was then bought by DeepMind to develop it further. Hark does the following: it identifies the tasks that need to be performed to prevent a patient who has been admitted to hospital deteriorating, allocates them to the right staff, and tracks what has been done or not done.

DeepMinds research shows that slow communication within a hospital often leads to patients not receiving the care they need fast enough, especially when there is a handover from one team to the other. Further research carried out at St Marys Hospital showed that with the Hark app responses by the medical staff were 37% faster. Hark not only calls to action, it also records all of a patient’s information and procedures carried out.

The Hark app actually does not use any AI technology in itself at the moment, but chances are it will when it is further developed. Unfortunately, as Google is known for gathering and using peoples data, an ethical question has been raised. Suleyman assures that patient data is highly protected and independent reviewers are overseeing the Hark DeepMind project. He also adds that the hospital owns the patient data and the data will never leave the UK and it will never be linked or associated with Google accounts, products or services..

There are plans to expand the alert feature of Hark to other conditions as well. The software is constantly being developed but the product is not yet a commercial operation. Given the history of technology, were sure that this is just the beginning of an innovative healthcare tech division.

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