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Artificial Intelligence for Everyday Use: Coming Soon

How four programmers with almost no knowledge of Japanese designed software to read handwriting.
From left, data scientist David Malkin, core engineers Joseph Bullard and Philip Irri, and research engineer Philippe Remy of Reactive Inc. at Tenoha Lab in Tokyo.

From left, data scientist David Malkin, core engineers Joseph Bullard and Philip Irri, and research engineer Philippe Remy of Reactive Inc. at Tenoha Lab in Tokyo.

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Real-world artificial-intelligence applications are popping up in unexpected places—and much sooner than you might think.

While winning a game of Go might be impressive, machine intelligence is also evolving to the point where it can be used by more people to do more things. That's how four engineers with almost zero knowledge of Japanese were able to create software, in just a few months, that can decipher handwriting in the language.