Earlier this year, artificial intelligence scientist Sebastian Thrun and colleagues at Stanford University demonstrated that a “deep learning” algorithm was capable of diagnosing potentially cancerous skin lesions as accurately as a board-certified dermatologist.
The cancer finding, reported in Nature, was part of a stream of reports this year offering an early glimpse into what could be a new era of “diagnosis by software,” in which artificial intelligence aids doctors—or even competes with them.
Experts say medical images, like photographs, x-rays, and MRIs, are a nearly perfect match for the strengths of deep-learning software, which has in the past few years led to breakthroughs in recognizing faces and objects in pictures.
Companies are already in pursuit. Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences arm, joined forces with Nikon last December to develop algorithms to detect causes of blindness in diabetics. The field of radiology, meanwhile, has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of medicine” because of the number …