Entrepreneurial Students Look in the Past to see the Future of Artificial Intelligence | Kent State University
Kent State's Craig Zamary introduces students to artificial intelligence (AI).

Entrepreneurial Students Look in the Past to see the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Imagine commuting to work in a flying pod, using 3-D printers to make meals, and employing quick-witted robots to clean your house. Sounds convenient, right? It might even sound familiar if you remember George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, and Jane, his wife. The Jetson’s know all about living in the future. The animated, space-aged sitcom portrayed a futuristic utopia filled with fantastical inventions, and complex robotic gadgets. While the cartoon first aired on primetime television in 1962, you can still see it today in an unlikely place – Craig Zamary’s classroom.

As an entrepreneurship lecturer in Kent State University’s College of Business Administration, and a serial entrepreneur who has started and sold three of his four startup companies, Zamary -  known to students as Craig - is passionate about introducing artificial intelligence (AI) to entrepreneurial students getting ready to enter the global economy.

“I showed them how forward thinking the show’s creators, Hanna-Barbera, were and explained how many of the devices are used today and how they can use this as inspiration to work with creative people to envision the future and create those solutions that we dream up,” Zamary said.

It is an eye-opening lesson for senior Jonathan Kontur, who is majoring in entrepreneurship.

The Jetson’s imagined things like treadmills, the internet, cell phones, alarm clocks, smartwatches, drones, and robot assistants before any of that existed,” said Kontur. “It goes to show that there is a good chance that what is science fiction in the cartoon now will become reality sooner than we expect.”

As artificial intelligence increasingly becomes an essential part of technology we use every day, Zamary is challenging his students to think up ways to better match clever people with machines designed to solve difficult problems. As part of his curriculum, Zamary turns to IBM Watson, a cognitive computing technology that became publicly known for winning Jeopardy! in 2011. It works by understanding the world similarly to humans via senses, learning, and experience. It can analyze large amounts of data to help people solve problems and make discoveries.

“Every day we are discovering new ways to make machines ever more useful,” said entrepreneurship major Alexander Swaim. “Over the past few years, there has been a drastic change in the way we live life. Craig helped us to see what life might be like even twenty years from now. The most important part of that future is the people who will make it happen. Each one of us could be the person that makes the future become the present.”

“Craig stresses the importance of innovation in business and how artificial intelligence will change the way business is conducted in the very near future,” said Nicholas Batton, entrepreneurship major. “The next leaders in business will be the ones pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence. The goal is to understand that learning to develop it for use in production automation, sales, and in-home technology, will provide future business leaders endless opportunities."

Entrepreneurship major Dean Barker is looking to integrate artificial intelligence into the mental health sector. By using it to scan someone’s public social media profile, Barker wants to use artificial intelligence to analyze the posts and return insight about a patient’s psychological and behaviors traits.

“Conversation and natural language classifiers can have conversations with patients and extract important information regarding their health, and even suggest a possible diagnosis,” Barker said. “This can all be done with artificial intelligence before the patient ever sees a doctor, enabling doctors to operate more efficiently and effectively.” 

For students, the possibilities are endless when it comes to integrating artificial intelligence into their future startup companies. Zamary hopes that by planting the seeds now, students will get a head start on thinking in the future, the very way The Jetson’s did back in the 1960s.

“I want them to be leaders and positively shape the path between artificial intelligence and humans and work to solve the greatest challenges to humanity,” Zamary said.

"The future of business will depend on artificial intelligence,” said entrepreneurship major Alexander Depasquale. “The quicker people can accept that, the quicker they will be multiple steps ahead of the game…it is going to be the fourth industrial revolution."

“The lesson Craig taught about artificial intelligence opened a new range of opportunities,” said entrepreneurship major Matthew Martin. “Having a professor that encourages students to think differently and look ahead of the tech curve is one of the best experiences I've had at Kent State University.”

Related: Zamary serves as expert advisor/mentor for the XPRIZE Foundation

Related: Crain’s Cleveland Business features Zamary

Related: Zamary’s blogs in The Huffington Post