DeepMind made a name for itself by building a computer that beat the world champion at Go (and freaked everyone out), but now it's moving on to a project more likely to help the common man: Diagnosing blindness. DeepMind has teamed up to work with the National Health Service, England's publicly funded healthcare system, to develop an algorithm that can better predict eye disease — including eventual blindness — from just looking at a scan of the eye. The NHS will share a million anonymous eye scans with DeepMind, who will train the machine to detect subtle signs that something is wrong. An ophthalmologist contacted DeepMind after reading about how it taught itself to be good at Atari games, and realised that it might also be good at other types of image recognition.
This is the second NHS partnership, after an earlier one where DeepMind technology is used to monitor kidney health. DeepMind's NHS partnership has been criticised by privacy campaigners in the past, and is being reviewed by a panel of healthcare experts and government agents.
But it's not the only company trying to apply machine learning to healthcare. Among a host of other startups, IBM is training its Jeopardy!-champ Watson to create personalised treatments for cancer. Maybe AI will make us all healthier right before they take us all out.