AI is having a moment. Of course, artificial intelligence has been a powerhouse for technological change over the past few decades, helping us find our way around town, identify machinery that’s about to need maintenance, and choose movies we’re likely to enjoy. But tools like ChatGPT have tickled the fancy of lots of people who never grasped that they were already using AI.
Misuse of AI has become an issue, and it will probably get worse before it gets better.
So it is cheering to see reports of good uses of AI. One example is a project called RePAIR, or Reconstructing the Past: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. This project has robots reconstructing murals in Pompeii.
Pompeii, as you probably remember, is the ancient city which was completely destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was damaged again in World War II.
Faced with scattered shards from works of art — in this case, lots of shards from very large works of art, shattered and scattered and generally ruined — human beings have to make searches and guesses to try to put them back together. “[It] sometimes takes years and sometimes never succeeds,” said Ohad Ben-Shahar of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Computer Science.
The robots in the REPAIR project use AIto scan the fragments and put them together with their robotic arms. They never get tired, bored, or overwhelmed by the size of the task.
It isn’t a reality yet, but it seems more likely to succeed than having human beings do all the work themselves.
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