Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as one of the most important tech trends of the year and it shows no sign of going away. Not only will AI continue to help an increasing number of companies to make better business decisions by extracting vital data, it will also be integrated into more consumer devices and has already been built into the software of a number of top-tier mobile phones.
The importance of integrating AI into future infrastructure has already been recognised by the recently created Government AI Readiness Index, which reflects how well-placed governments are to support AI technology. The report1 currently rates the UK in the top spot, reflecting its strong technology industry and world-leading centres for AI research.
“As the Artificial Intelligence beneath our devices acquires more and more knowledge, our devices will not only answer questions… but begin to deliver conversation”
AI will be useful to a wide range of sectors from healthcare, retail and sport to manufacturing, logistics and entertainment. In the mobile sector, the rise of conversational AI will be particularly prevalent. Perhaps the most well-known examples of conversational AIs are the Apple* Siri* and Amazon* Alexa* voice assistants, which can be integrated into various devices including smartphones and tablets. “As the Artificial Intelligence beneath our devices acquires more and more knowledge, our devices will not only answer questions… but begin to deliver conversation; comprised not only of noun-verb commands but full sentences,” says Jon Stine, Global Director Retail Sales at Intel in a blog post. “Filled with inflection and emotion. Which opens the door to an enormously deeper understanding of shopper interactions and experiences.”
This kind of AI-powered conversational interface enables machines to talk back to us in a more human way and could completely redefine the customer experience. There has already been a shift in this direction with the rise of text-based chatbots. In 2016, Facebook* launched a developer-friendly platform for creating chatbots for its Messenger* service and there is now a wide range available, including one that enables the user to easily order pizza, along with a trial ‘bot from the UK’s National Health Service that can respond to patients reporting their symptoms.
However, quality control is still an issue, and even the good examples of chatbots are limited to relatively basic, linear interactions. The next step is to develop AI-enhanced chatbots that are capable of looking at queries in context and providing more human-like responses, rather than simply picking from a list of predetermined answers. Along with the ability to understand more complex human speech, these will have additional learning abilities and will be able to ‘remember’ and make reference to previous conversations and transactions. Eventually, we’re likely to see voice-controlled purchasing emerging as an additional sales channel, both on desktop and on mobile.
AI could also help to shape the future of creativity, having already been used to produce experimental film trailers, short film scripts and musical compositions. Late last year, Intel unveiled the very first music video created using its AI technology. The video from Chinese pop star Chris Lee uses Intel’s machine learning system to apply pre-designed special effects to the singer’s face. While AI is no replacement for human imagination, it will be a vital tool in boosting individual creativity in future. As well as taking care of some of the more mundane technical tasks, giving creators more time to concentrate on their vision, AI can also inspire them to move in new and previously unexplored directions.
However, in order to unlock the full potential of AI, a cultural shift is needed. The implementation of AI should not simply be limited to the IT department. Instead, it should permeate all aspects of the business, with all departments and employees given the chance to integrate AI into their daily tasks. Such a major shift in culture must come from the top of the organisation down. It requires investment, not only in technical infrastructure, but in staff training to ensure that all employees can get the best from AI.
Along with a cultural shift, the AI revolution will be driven by next-generation technology such as the Intel® Nervana™ Neural Network Processor (NNP), which will enable machine learning to extract useful insights from data. “The Intel® Nervana™ NNP promises to revolutionize AI computing across myriad industries,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in an editorial. “Using Intel® Nervana™ technology, companies will be able to develop entirely new classes of AI applications that maximize the amount of data processed and enable customers to find greater insights – transforming their businesses.”
AI is a revolutionary technology that is set to disrupt a wide range of businesses and the rate of innovation shows no signs of slowing down. As well as streamlining operations and providing valuable business insights, AI has the potential to totally reinvent customer engagement. Not only will we see conversational AI built into more products, we’ll also continue to see AI built into more mobile devices in order to help them run more efficiently. But making the most out of AI requires both technological and cultural change.
*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others