Discovery Science Center’s Annual Innovators’ Luncheon Provides Insight on the Growing Impact of Technology

Past Tides
May 30, 2018 By Grace Wood

The Cove @ UCI recently hosted the annual Innovators’ Luncheon for Discovery Science Center, Discovery Cube and the Discovery Science Foundation. The Cube is the nonprofit arm of the Discovery family, focusing on STEM, environmental awareness and healthy living.

“We’ve got a dramatic shift [in technology] that’s going on and it’s not something that’s going on yesterday. It’s going on today, and tomorrow is right around the corner,” said Jay Witzling, advisor at the Discovery Science Center.

Featured speaker Neil Sahota, IBM master inventor, presented on the current state of technology. Sahota, a UCI alum and accomplished inventor, greeted the audience with Pepper, a humanoid robot from IBM. After demonstrating Pepper’s conversational abilities to the audience, Sahota discussed the impacts of technology today, from digital assistants like the Amazon Alexa to movie trailers. He pointed out that technology is constantly and rapidly changing to a point where it is no longer considered science fiction for machines to “learn” on their own.

“What you saw [with Pepper] is not the future, it’s the present,” said Sahota. “We used to imagine a world where you could talk to machines…today this is a reality.”

He then explained that people feel more comfortable divulging information to a machine rather than to their doctors or other individuals. Because machines cannot express judgment, people provide more truthful answers to a multitude of questions related to healthcare, education, finances, among many other topics. This means artificial intelligence technology provides better information and recommendations than ever before, according to Sahota.

“When it comes to AI in action, there’s over 10,000 companies alone in the Watson ecosystem,” said Sahota. “I would probably bet there’s 100,000 companies worldwide that already have AI products and services in market.”

The luncheon also acknowledged the Discovery Science Center’s beneficial impacts on the community while also hearing from an accomplished inventor and scientist. What was once science fiction 20 years ago, now enhances work, play and entertainment, through technological advancement and innovation.