AI advancements in medicine and education lead ZDNET’s Innovation Index

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Welcome to ZDNET's Innovation Index, which identifies the most innovative developments in tech from the past week and ranks the top four, based on votes from our panel of editors and experts. Our mission is to help you identify the trends that will have the biggest impact on the future.

Once again, AI leads with three out of four of this week's top innovations, most notably in improving support for doctors and changing the future of education.

Researchers at Germany's Heidelberg University Hospital landed at #1 by linking gen AI models to an external database of information, which supercharged the models' ability to accurately answer queries about oncology. By using retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) to amplify what gen AI can do, this development could significantly lessen the administrative load on doctors searching ever-expanding literature for treatments — especially during a global oncologist shortage. The result could mean more efficiently-sourced care (and more bandwidth for clinicians).

In second place is OpenAI's education-specific ChatGPT. Complete with bespoke pricing, the move is intended to make the company's enterprise-level chatbot more accessible to students and educators as universities increasingly embrace the reality of gen AI. Schools can take a while to adopt new technology — they don't have the luxury of moving fast and breaking things. By becoming an early partner to institutions with ChatGPT Edu, OpenAI is well-positioned to lead the future of AI's inevitable influence on education.

Coming in third: could 3D-printed homes solve housing inequality, one of humanity's most pressing issues? It's an inventive application of a highly-capable technology — once you get past the incredible visual of a gigantic machine printing homes brick by brick, it's got pros and cons. In short, the idea cuts costs, but might not be scalable. Even so, it's a valuable approach to a problem in dire need of a solution.

In last place this week is a smaller — but still crucial — development: an AI fix for your busted Amazon package. The company's new Project P.I. will now detect product defects before they arrive at your door, and double-check your order details with computer vision to avoid misshipments. Amazon claims this climate-forward initiative will help reduce packaging waste and transport emissions; while that might be hard to gauge right now, it's definitely a customer service improvement.

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