Microsoft's 'smart elevator' knows where you're going

Illustration for article titled Microsoft's 'smart elevator' knows where you're going

In a recent Bloomberg Television interview, Head of Microsoft Research Peter Lee described his company's latest achievement: An elevator that uses AI to figure out which floor you're going to.


Microsoft is currently working on a suite of applications and 'smart devices' that, instead of being operated directly, intuitively work on a user's behalf.

To work, the smart elevator uses sensors to watch what people are doing. Remarkably, it's not equipped with any prior programming, nor does it use facial recognition software. It's simply a learning algorithm that studies behavior.

So, by studying the motions of people in hallways, it learns that certain types of people go to certain places at certain times of the day. It's an intelligent system that seeks to understand people's intentions.

"If your environment knows, for example, that it's lunch time, that you had spoken yesterday about having lunch with a colleague on the second floor, and that it notices that you seem to be now leaving your office to go to the elevator, the elevator can be smart enough to take you, without your need to operate anything, to your colleague," said Lee.

Once the three month training period ended, the developers put the elevator into practice — and it correctly intuited the destinations of its passengers. In the future, Lee says the system could get even better with the introduction of more sensors, including those affixed to the building or embedded in wearables.


Here's the entire interview with Lee:


Image: Sashkin/Shutterstock.


Ravenous Sophovore

Elevators: Modern elevators are strange and complex entities. The ancient electric winch and "maximum-capacity-eight-persons" jobs bear as much relation to a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy Vertical People Transporter as a packet of mixed nuts does to the entire west wing of the Sirian State Mental Hospital.

This is because they operate on the curious principle of "defocused temporal perception." In other words they have the capacity to see dimly into the immediate future, which enables the elevator to be on the right floor to pick you up even before you knew you wanted it, thus eliminating all the tedious chatting, relaxing and making friends that people were previously forced to do while waiting for elevators.

Not unnaturally, many elevators imbued with intelligence and precognition became terribly frustrated with the mindless business of going up and down, up and down, experimented briefly with the notion of going sideways, as a sort of existential protest demanded participation in the decision-making process and finally took to squatting in basements sulking.