The first half of 2018 has given us some amazing technological advances. There have been quite a few breakthroughs and improvements noted throughout the tech industry, and while you’ve more than likely utilized some them at one point or another, we’d like to focus on what we believe are the top three tech trends of the year. In this article, we’ll break down the reality of artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and voice search, to help you stay informed and equipped to make the most of these tools.
The primary goals of AI advancement include improved deduction and reasoning, better knowledge representation, more “natural” natural language processing (NLP), and improved robotic perception and mobility. At a higher level, AI research pursues the long-term goals of achieving artificial creativity, social intelligence, and other human-level abilities. Though AI research began in the 1950s, the past couple of years have delivered incredible strides in this technology. Depending on its capabilities and purpose, AI today can be classified into three main categories:
- Narrow AI focuses on the task for which it was developed. There is no sense of self-awareness or genuine intelligence.
- True AI is designed to be as intelligent as a human and should be capable of performing tasks as such. This is still theoretical but is undergoing intense research. There’s a lot we still need to learn before developing true AI.
- Artificial superintelligence is another theoretical concept that goes beyond true AI. Successfully developing artificial superintelligence would result in an intellect significantly more capable than that of a human.
You’ve probably interacted with some form of AI, whether you were aware of it or not. When you ask Siri for directions or tell Alexa to order you more paper towels or give any non-biological entity a command or request, you’re engaging with an artificially intelligent system. Virtual assistants use NLP to understand what you say and formulate the best response, which allows these systems to interact in surprisingly human ways. We will undoubtedly find ourselves interacting with AI more and more as researchers and developers continue to push the envelope of what’s possible with this technology.
The most commonly used type of AI, outside of voice assistants, are known as chatbots. They can be powered by rule-based systems or artificial intelligence and are designed to interact in an automated way via chat interfaces. Chatbot capabilities have undergone immense improvements, as more people now favor interacting with their favorite brands through messaging apps on social media. Chatbots have improved to such a degree that a PwC report found that 27 percent of customers were unsure whether their last customer service interaction was with a human or a bot. Chatbots can be divided into two groups based on their functionality:
- Rule-based bots are programmed for a specific reason and are only capable of responding to very specific commands.
- AI-based bots are powered by machine learning and/or NLP systems. These bots are capable of understanding more complex language inputs and can react to a much wider range of commands. The intelligence of AI chatbots improves the more they interact with people.
The global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion in revenue by 2025. AI development should continue to advance during this time and in turn, provide us with increasingly accurate and authentic chatbot experiences. While the goal of utilizing a chatbot is to eliminate the need for humans to handle tedious tasks such as basic customer support, ecommerce assistance, or data collection, better chatbot technology promises benefits beyond the automation of boring support work. Customers continue to expect more from their customer service interactions, which should make AI-driven chatbots ever more relevant.
The names Alexa, Siri, and Cortana have recently become as commonplace in many homes and businesses as the names of those who live or work there. According to a Google survey, 72 percent of voice assistant owners reported using their virtual assistants as a part of their daily schedules. When Siri was introduced in 2011, it was one of the most visible public displays of AI in action. Seven years later, intelligent voice search is revolutionizing the way people search and receive information thanks to advanced NLP abilities, greater efficiency, and extreme portability. Voice assistants are growing so popular that it’s estimated that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
Voice-activated assistants can do more than provide convenient weather and news updates or on-demand music — they’re having a major impact on businesses as well. Introducing voice assistants to the workforce can significantly improve companies’ overall productivity levels; Gartner predicts that intelligent helpers will recover up to 6.2 billion employee hours based on a recent voice assistant survey. The promise of saving more than 700,000 years’ worth of lost productivity will certainly contribute to continued advancements in this technology for years to come.
These three technology trends have come far in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go. As research progresses we’ll certainly see greater capabilities and more widespread implementations of these technologies in our daily lives.