Researchers at Microsoft have trained elevators in a company building to predict whether people passing by want to get on or are heading to another location. For months, a camera in the ceiling observed the behaviors of people near the elevators and passed the data to an artificial intelligence system, which taught itself to recognize behaviors that indicated whether a person wanted to board an elevator. The system would then open the elevator doors automatically if it thought a person wanted a ride.
The team responsible for the project has begun a second phase of research conducting experiments with human-like interactions between elevators and people. They hope to have the elevators do things such as ask, “Are you coming?” and make a motion with its doors.
The smart elevator cannot tell with complete accuracy whether a person wants a ride. If it is unsure, it could jiggle back and forth to indicate that it is unsure whether to open or close its doors. The person could then indicate with words or a gesture whether or not he or she wants to board the elevator.
The elevator project is one of many advances in artificial intelligence that Microsoft hopes will make common machines and devices “smarter.” The company is also working on technologies such as robots and personal assistants. While some elevator manufacturers have expressed interest in the developing “smart” elevator technology, researchers do not expect their “smart” elevator to become available to the general public anytime in the near future.