Artificial intelligence was one of the most hyped up technologies in 2017, and 2018 doesn't look like being any different, with good reason – AI is creeping its way into every aspect of our daily lives, whether it's browsing social media or chatting to a smart speaker in the corner of our living rooms.
We've heard a lot about AI increasing its presence on smartphones – recognizing objects in photos, powering digital assistants and so on – but plenty of other gadgets now come with built-in AI. Here's our pick for the best of the bunch.
1. DJI Phantom 4 Advanced
Drones need to have some level of autonomy to stop them from falling out of the sky or ramming straight into a tree, and it's thanks to AI that drones like the DJI Phantom 4 Advanced can pilot themselves as and when needed.
The Phantom 4 Advanced, like several other models, is smart enough to pick you out from a crowd and can take a selfie of you without you having to be at the controls. The same kind of intelligent tech enables it to identify a quickly approaching obstacle so it can swerve to avoid it – all thanks to the on-board image processing AI.
That extends to being able to recognize when an object (such as yourself or one of your fellow extreme snowboarders) is moving through a frame, adjusting the camera positioning and focus accordingly. Nothing needs to be sent back to the cloud for analysis, so it's almost like having a real person behind the lens.
Of course there's plenty more to the DJI Phantom 4 Advanced than AI – you get 30 minutes of flight time from a single charge, more than 4 miles of range, and up to 4K video recording to really capture those sweeping landscapes or extreme sports in fantastic detail. For even better specs, consider upgrading to the Phantom 4 Pro.
You can buy the Phantom 4 Advanced for £1,359/$1,199/AU$1,899 from DJI.
2. Google Home
We could have just have easily picked one of the Amazon Echo devices here, but the Google Home (and the Mini and the Max) has the benefit of all of Google's AI expertise – the company has made it perfectly clear that it sees AI as its top priority and it's investing in the algorithms and the hardware to make that happen.
All of that high-level programming and engineering filters its way down to the Google Assistant, which comes built into the Google Home as well as a growing number of other devices too. When you speaker recognizes your voice, that's AI at work – machine learning identifying the characteristics of your speech even if you're saying words that it hasn't heard you say before.
A different kind of artificial intelligence is deployed to make sense of what you're actually saying, to work out which words in which order and which context should prompt which responses. You can't yet chat to a smart speaker quite as easily as a human being, but when you can, it'll be thanks to AI engineering.
Being able to answer your questions and tell you the weather requires a simpler sort of AI of course, basically looking up the details on the web and reading them back to you. Still, the Google Home speaker has an impressive number of tricks up its sleeve, and that number is growing all the time.
You can pick up the standard Google Home speaker for £129/$129/AU$199 from the Google Store.
3. Netatmo Welcome
The Netatmo Welcome security camera can recognize your face, so it's able to spot the difference between you, your kids, and an unwelcome intruder who's after your valuables. That kind of recognition relies on some AI machine learning, recognizing faces from any angle or direction.
Picking out faces puts the Netatmo Welcome one step beyond the standard motion detection in most security cameras – you're going to get fewer false positives if a shadow passes across the room or your dog wanders by. It can work in a positive way as well, alerting you if the camera spots that your kids or your elderly parents have made it back home, for example.
Beside the AI smarts built into the Netatmo Welcome camera, it can also respond to alarms in your home (for smoke or CO2, for example), as well as store videos locally or in the cloud. Everything is tied together with straightforward apps that are simple to use.
These apps for Android, iOS and the web allow you to tune into a live video feed whenever you like, in addition to the push alerts you get if something important happens when you're not watching. If you're an Apple hardware fan, then the camera works with the HomeKit standard as well.
You can purchase the Netatmo Welcome security camera for £199/$199 from Netatmo.
4. Nest Thermostat
There's no doubt about it, our homes are getting smarter – and devices like the Nest Thermostat are leading the way. As well as letting you set the temperature of your house from your phone, the Nest system also includes a sprinkling of AI so it gets more intelligent over time.
That means it applies some clever algorithms to learn the heating patterns you and your family need, in theory saving you money over the long run. However, despite all that advanced technology working away in the background, it's actually very simple to use... or at least it is once you've had it installed.
Nest can even turn on the heating ready for when you get home from your holidays, if you tell it your vacation dates. It's smart enough to work out how efficiently your home heats up and how draughty it is, so you've got that advanced AI busy calculating the best times to turn the heating on and off.
Of course the Nest ecosystem is rapidly expanding to include security cameras and motion sensors and other stuff too, but you can start off with the Nest Thermostat and then work your way out if you need to.
The Nest Thermostat can be bought for £219/$249 from Nest.
5. Kuri Home Robot
So far we haven't seen too many home assistant robots reach the mainstream, though Kickstarters and prototypes have come and gone. With AI tech improving and hardware costs falling, the time might finally be right for robots to start being genuinely useful around the home, and Kuri is leading the charge.
The robot can play your music, take photos and videos on the fly, answer your questions and of course engage in some conversation, all thanks to the AI smarts hidden behind its mechanical eyes. The gadget includes mapping sensors too, enabling Kuri to find its way around dining room tables and living room chairs.
Face and voice recognition are two more areas where the robot's artificial intelligence features really come into play, so Kuri knows who it's talking to and can change its responses accordingly.
Via the associated app you can configure Kuri (maybe getting it to wake you up in the morning), as well as reviewing the photos and videos that Kuri has captured on its travels around your home. It's just like having another member of the family move in, without the mess of pets or the temper tantrums of toddlers.
You can't actually buy the Kuri Home Robot yet, but you can put down a preorder for $100 (about £75) with an eventual retail price of $799 (about £590) on the Kuri website.
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