back to article Humans suck so much at beating this pandemic that Microsoft has made an AI to enforce social distancing

Microsoft's Spatial Analysis, announced at its Ignite virtual event today, uses artificial intelligence to count the number of people in a room and monitor social distancing. Spatial Analysis is a feature of Redmond's Cognitive Services, a raft of machine-learning tools intended to be easy to deploy. Although this collection …

  1. jake Silver badge

    How long before ...

    ... the first exploit or vulnerability is found in this utterly useless piece of code? I'm guessing no later than the end of the week, when it will be quietly withdrawn with no explanation.

  2. Chris G

    It's interesting that the word 'artificial' is derived from the word artifice.

    Oxford Languages definition of artifice : clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others.

    Then there is the alleged intelligence.....

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      @ Chris G

      "Oxford Languages definition of artifice : clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others."

      Are you suggesting that HMG has "a cunning plan"?

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        So cunning, you could pin a tail on it, and call it a weasel.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    FAIL

    "uses artificial intelligence to count the number of people in a room"

    I'm sure Borkzilla will have no problem putting Azure containerized thingamajigs onto people's mobile phones in order for its AI to count the people in the same room.

    I'm also pretty sure that counting is something that computers hardly need AI for - don't they do that out of the box ?

    This is definitely a solution in search of a problem. A BluTooth mobile app reporting to Borkzilla Central and counting the number of answering apps in the vicinity would have been quite enough - but hey, I'm just a programmer.

    1. spold Silver badge

      Re: "uses artificial intelligence to count the number of people in a room"

      **** that...the T4 AI units are apparently deep-learning accelerators with Turing Tensor Cores... they just vapourise people until the appropriate social-distancing parameters are achieved.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "uses artificial intelligence to count the number of people in a room"

      Does Micros~1 foresee ADDITIONAL NEED for such an "app", in the future??? Something that would justify its existence, especially with 3 companies competing for vaccine trials at the moment...

      In ANY case, I sure as hell *HOPE* *NOT* - this ONE time is *BAD* *ENOUGH*. NEVER AGAIN *I* say!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Vaccine not expected till Q2 2021

        Judging by this, you won't see major rollout till Q2 2021, CDC (the sciency part, not Roger Stone's nutjob friend) was saying Q3 for a major rollout.

        https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/novel-coronavirus-landscape-covid-19-(5).pdf

        It depends if it spreads too much and mutates too much. You have the S, G and D strains as the main strains currently, with the D being far more deadly, and G being far more infectious. But who knows what new strains appear if its allowed to spread far and wide in the USA.

        The earliest I can find in that spreadsheet, NCT04516746 has a quick rough and ready trial end of Dec 2020, and actual trial end of Oct 2021. Others expect to deliver full P3 results March 5th 2021.

        I'm not sure an AI to enforce social distancing is the best solution. If multiple people are close together that may not be a problem if they're a family or social grouping, its probably better to clump those together and separate them from other family groupings. AI looking at cameras won't tell you their interrelationship.

        Masks are the easiest tell. It's pretty easy to see who is wearing a mask and whether it's worn properly.

        In Thailand, early on after re-opening, they enforced screens between people in restaurants, but it was dumb, families were spread out across tables and intermixed with others, and it was quickly dropped in favor of one-social-group-one-table and space the tables instead. Shared buffet restaurants were kept closed untill a month after zero cases were reached.

        That eliminated the virus totally. But that was the 'S' strain, the new strains G and D are popping up in returnees to Thailand.

        Masks were and are still enforced, and with 100% success. No local cases of Covid19, apart from a DJ arrested on drugs charges that tested positive with the 'G' strain. That led to a mass testing, but so far, 3 weeks and the masks are holding the line.

        I see Trump is trying to undermine mask wearing, and has his rally's maskless, indoors. He says the risk is low, his stage is well away from everyone so that's alright then, he's safe. *He* has social distancing, his supporters he doesn't care about, but he clearly understands the risk to *him*.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: "uses artificial intelligence to count the number of people in a room"

      A Bluetooth app could count the number of Bluetooth devices currently active in the vicinity. It's not at all clear how that number relates to the number of people, though.

  4. macjules

    Hey, it looks like ...

    Clippy: "Hey, it looks like you have too many people in this room. Would you like me to report this to the Social Distancing Police?"

    Me: "No that's my family"

    Clippy: "Hey, it looks like you have too many people in this room. Would you like me to report this to the Social Distancing Police?"

    Me: "No that's my family"

    Clippy: "Happy to say that I have reported this to the Police. Have a Nice Day."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Microsoft has made an AI...

    Oh sweet Lord. Not again. Will they never learn?

    I can imagine the conversation:

    MS Twitter manager: "So, Tay v2, what caused Covid?"

    Tay v2: "...The Jews".

    ...frantic rebooting and disk formatting follows...

    Another Microsoft partial success.

  6. hoola Silver badge

    WTF

    This just goes to show the level of stupidity we are at.

    To work everyone needs be counted, maybe a camera or mobile device. If it is the latter then unless there is a unique App installed, multiple devices held by one person will screw it up. The total reliance on Apps and "AI" to do something simply just give some false sense of achievement and security just because it is "smart technology".

    If it is a camera then the system needs to could the heads, all possible but it does not need to be "AI" and then what? Try and get people to leave if there are too many, lock the doors so people cannot get in? Given how stupid many of the British public appear to be in complying with any guidelines (even if they are "confusing" I don't really see how it adds value.

    The one place where some sort of technical solution could help is larger shops where you count in and out. That however does not need "AI" it just needs a counter.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      Every supermarket already has CCTV cameras. Set this to watch every aisle, and it can tell you where crowding happens. Or, it could be set to trigger an alarm if anyone has been standing in one place - such as a checkout queue - for more than five minutes.

      It took me whole seconds to come up with that application. Pretty sure you can think of more, if you try.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: WTF

        Supermarkets have had the software that does this and a lot more for years.

      2. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: WTF

        "Or, it could be set to trigger an alarm if anyone has been standing in one place - such as a checkout queue - for more than five minutes."

        Wow, in the human world, we call them eyes.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: WTF

          Sure, of course you can hire people to do the same work, but that's true of approximately everything that computers do. There's a reason we use computers anyway.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WTF

        Pixies. On scooters. With tasers.

    2. Chris G
      Trollface

      Re: WTF

      I am in favour of the Soylent system for population control.

      Every shop, restaurant and public place should have random trap doors leading to 'processing' drpartments. When excessive head counts are detected, random trapdoors should open until numbers are down to a satisfactory level, this system is perfect for implementing with AI.

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Progress is now defned as measuring the length of queues

    And isn't that nice? I wonder how well it works in a souk?

    I'm sure this AI solution beats the ubiquitous bits of tape that everyone else is using to nudge users into keeping some distance.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What an excellent way to covertly install surveillance *everywhere*

    "Oh, this is not for surveillance, no, we will only use it for Covid19"

    Well, here's a traffic camera sequence from an EU country when the amount of traffoc cameras was dramatically expanded:

    "Oh no, we will only use them in case of a terror attack, never as speeding cameras"

    "Oh no, we will only use them to monitor traffic, never as speeding cameras"

    "Oh no, we will only use them to check for vehicle insurance, never as speeding cameras"

    You guessed it, those "we will never" cameras are now enrolled in speed control. It took about 5 years.

    Add to this that we're talking about the makers of about the least secure OS on the planet, and I'd tell them to use the cameras for self- examination. Rectally, and while retaining the anti-pigeon spikes on the housing.

    Yes, I haven't had any coffee yet, why?

    :)

  9. IGotOut Silver badge

    Revolutionary.

    It can detectbwe people are approaching dangerous machinery and warn them.

    As they gaze at their mobile phone ignoring the barriers, hazard tape, coloured floooring, flashing lights, sirens and trip sensors already in place.

  10. Richy Freeway

    Ocucon already did this with Aldi.

    https://ocucon.com/occupi/

    https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/aldi/aldis-traffic-lights-to-be-upgraded-with-prompts-for-hearing-and-sight-impaired/646138.article

  11. Bryan Hall

    The pandemic was beat months ago, there are just those out there that want to keep it going for power grab reasons.

    Not that I trust anything to do with it from Gates, who of course is in it for the money.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      "Not that I trust anything to do with it from Gates, who of course is in it for the money."

      The same Gates that has little to do with Microsoft these days and donates billions to eradicating disease and improving education?

      Or do you mean the gates that your mates at Qanon believe in that he implanting a non-existent technology into our veins to track us for err...not sure why...5g?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Is that the same qanon that was invented for the lulz by teenagers on 4chan in order to troll simpleton, credulous adults?

  12. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps on

    this petty pace.

    In the case of the UK, or rather England, tomorrow is the launch of the latest contact tracing phone app.

    Ta daa!

    OK, well, let us just hope it turns out better than the previous 'world beating' one. I will certainly be interested in any article the Reg publishes and the comments on how effective it is.

    The most interesting thing I've heard on the news recently about protecting yourself from Covid-19 is wearing glasses. As the eye is a very pleasant environment for airborne viruses and bacteria to enter the human body, wearing glasses could be an effective way to reduce your chances of infection.

    <As an aside: Does the diagram in the article remind anyone else of the London Eye?>

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