VM Summit on Artificial Intelligence Computes the Man + Machine Equation

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NEW YORK—Artificial Intelligence (AI), arguably the most transformative force in business and health care today, took center stage at Vision Monday’s Global Leadership Summit, held here Wednesday.

Nearly 400 senior level optical industry executives and eyecare practitioners came to the 11th annual VM Summit to learn how their businesses and practices can benefit from AI, and how to put AI to practical use. Throughout the day-long program, more than a dozen AI experts offered a penetrating look at how AI is rapidly affecting commerce as well as social interactions.

Using examples such as self-driving cars, chatbots and predictive analytics, they described how machine learning, deep learning, artificial neural networks and other aspects of AI are powering executive decision making and bringing a new level of personalization to the customer and patient experience.

Supported by Premier sponsors Essilor, Europa Eyewear and VSP Global, Signature sponsors Alcon and Luxottica and Supporting sponsors ABS Smart Mirror, CareCredit and The Vision Council, the VM Summit got underway with Marc Ferrara, CEO, Information Services Division of Jobson Medical Information, who offered an overview of AI in popular culture. He said, “The AI discussion is all around us, every day. The more we explore AI, we realize it’s not A thing, it’s THE thing.”

Marge Axelrad, senior vice president and editorial director, Vision Monday, discussed how AI fits within the context of prior Summits and how it is “supercharging decision making” for today’s business leaders. She predicted the “overlap of humans and machines” would be a recurring theme of the Summit discussion.

The first session kicked off with Hilary Mason, founder & CEO, Fast Forward Labs, a data research company that assists organizations in accelerating their data science and machine intelligence capabilities.

Mason illustrated key concepts of artificial intelligence with a pyramid diagram, starting at the bottom: Big Data, Analytics, Data Science, Machine Learning, and at the top, AI.

She then identified everyday examples of artificial intelligence products, including her favorite: Google Maps. “You can look at your phone and make a decision about what you’re going to do with no understanding of what’s going on with the data,” she said. “You don’t even have to think about it at all. This, to me, is the most successful type of AI product.”

Disputing the fear that bots will take human jobs, Mason added, “These are tools for understanding very large, complex amounts of information that were previously out of reach for us. We’re looking for areas where people do repetitive tasks to generate data. [Using AI in these instances] will reduce overall cost, and gives permission to do more creative work, to build new products that wouldn’t have been built before.”

Mark Platshon, managing director and co-founder of icebreaker Ventures-Autonomous World Fund spoke in length about the research relating to autonomous cars, the car industry as well as how this AI technology relates back to humans. “Everything that happens in the economy is related to people and good movement,” he said. The more you take friction out of the system you boost economy. You get tremendous leverage in productivity and creativity.”
After briefing the audience on the history of laser surgery for refractive error, involving a Thanksgiving turkey, Chandra Narayanaswami went into detail on AI and its impact on the potential to solve problems, opening many new frontiers. “It’s not us versus the machine, it’s us with the machine,” he said.

Next was a session that examined how AI algorithms learn what we like, enabling personalized brands to create new experiences and choices for consumers. New smart tools make data actionable, creating competitive advantages for retailers, professionals, designers and suppliers.

Victor Morrison, chief strategy officer and SVP of sales, Next IT Healthcare, outlined his company’s Digital Health Coach platform which is uniquely poised to disrupt and transform patient engagement. “It’s all about using connectivity and integration to understand user/patient intent. Ultimately, patient engagement will be the blockbuster drug of this century,” he predicted.

Alberto Jimenez, OMS and payments leader for IBM Watson Commerce, touched on the role of AI in the business of order management and payments. While online shopping remains a popular option, “retail stores are a key asset in the battle against digital-only players. Some 90 percent of transactions still take place in retail stores. AI can help monitor online browsing and help retail associates when customers come in to pick up items.”

Or Shani, CEO & founder, Adgorithms, creators of Albert, the world’s first and only self-driven marketing and advertising platform said, “Our company is looking to de-mystify AI. Digital marketing has become too complex and inefficient. Our AI marketing algorithms are better, faster and more robust.” Admitting that the rise of AI is perceived as a threat by some people, he reassured the audience saying, “AI comes in peace.”

The afternoon sessions began with a discussion of AI applications for business and vision care and the need for informed, responsible decision making.

Alex John London, a professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Ethics and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said he believes as AI and other technologies move forward one of the key issues will be the consideration that’s given to whether the systems are deployed fairly “so that firms can advance their interests, but that we don’t leave important social values withering.”

Then the program’s focus turned to eyecare, and how artificial intelligence is helping to detect eye disease, which may lead to improved diagnoses and earlier treatment. Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO, chief clinical editor at Review of Optometry led audience members through the ways in which artificial intelligence can relate to eyecare, referencing Ophthalmic Resources, a project in which patient information is collected in an EMR and an algorithm is used to help determine the best treatment for patients with conditions like dry eye. “Once we used AI, we realized we had been wrong 90 percent of the time,” he said.

Following Karpecki was a video interview with Pearse A. Keane, MD, FRCOphth, consultant ophthalmologist Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. In the interview with VM’s Andrew Karp, Keane explained his belief that using Google AI Deep Learning to analyze OCT scans can more accurately diagnose retinal diseases, like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, as well as predict the onset of these diseases.

After the video, Kovin Naidoo, OD, PhD, FAAO, CEO, Brien Holden Vision Institute, spoke about using data to manage eye conditions around the world, particularly in relation to the Global Burden of Disease, or GBD. “Increasingly, practitioners and policymakers are finding value in GBD projections and graphs that are available, which can be used to affect policy change and advocacy efforts,” Naidoo said.

Following Naidoo was John Gelles, OD, FIAO, FCLSA chief of Emerging Technologies, Cool Doctors, who spoke about his company’s product, Eyecarelive, a cloud-based telemedicine platform for doctors and patients.
Gelles emphasized the product’s creation for ECPs, by ECPs. “What we’re trying to do is facilitate care of the future by creating a hybrid office, physical and virtual. By extending our reach, we can create better outcomes and facilitate the care of the future.”

The program concluded with a special performance by Mari Kimura, a world-class musician and composer who uses AI to inspire creativity. Kimura, a violinist and teacher of Interactive Computer Music Performance at The Juilliard School, delighted the audience by performing while wearing a sensor-enabled glove on her bowing hand. The device tracked her movements and fed the data into a laptop which used an algorithm to process it and produce its own sounds which Kimura then used to create a beautiful human-machine duet.