Suddenly, AI seems to be everywhere. “Smart” algorithms work on stock exchanges; suggest what films to watch on Netflix, what goods to buy on Amazon and are already learning to drive us around in autonomous electric cars. But AI is has a major public image problem.
For many, the term Artificial Intelligence conjures images of Terminators and Replicants, in a dystopian future, mostly kicking our meaty asses.
For example, this is what AI looked like in the movie I saw last night-
…versus what it looks like in my hand today-
…At least I can sleep at night knowing Siri isn’t plotting my imminent downfall!
The problem lies in the fact AI is an umbrella term that covers many areas from Machine Learning, right up to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), the movie kind, where machines can carry out any intellectual task humans can.
“today’s so-called A.I. systems are merely advanced machine learning software with extensive behavioral algorithms that adapt themselves to our likes and dislikes. While extremely useful, these machines aren’t getting smarter in the existential sense, but they are improving their skills and usefulness based on a large dataset.”(Source – Adams, Forbes)
So for a term conceived over 60 years ago, AI remains in its infancy. But don’t under-estimate this toddler! It’s rapidly growing in its scope and capabilities and invisible AI technology is increasingly becoming embedded in our daily lives, just as smartphones are.
If a machine ever asks you this question the correct answer is”No Thanks”. Just as toddlers learn through play, machines can too.
Another major milestone in the evolution of AI occurred last March when a machine named AlphaGo beat the 18-time world champion in the ancient game of Go. Machines have beaten Grand Masters in chess for years but what makes this such an unlikely outcome is Go is a more intuitive game where strategies must be devised based on multiple battles occurring simultaneously.
There are more possible positions in Go than there are atoms in the universe. That makes Go a googol times more complex than chess (that’s a 1 with 100 zero’s after it!).
The progress continues at a startling rate, across games traditionally thought of as requiring more intuition than logic and calculation alone.
In January a machine called Libratus, created by two Carnegie Melon AI researchersbeat a team of professional Texas Hold-em Poker players. Over the 20 days of play, Libratus topped its human competitors by more than $1.7 million, and all four humans ended with a negative number of chips.
“The computer can’t win at poker if it can’t bluff…Developing an AI that can do that successfully is a tremendous step forward scientifically and has numerous applications. Imagine that your smartphone will someday be able to negotiate the best price on a new car for you. That’s just the beginning.” – Frank Pfenning
AI in practical application
Let’s face it, Google didn’t spend $650m on DeepMind in order to beat humans at ancient Chinese abstract strategy board games:
“These days, the world’s biggest, richest tech companies are using the same kinds of technologies on which AlphaGo was built to seek competitive advantage. Which app can recognize a photo better? Which can respond to a voice command? Soon these same kinds of systems may help robots interact with their real-world environments more like people do.” (source: wired)
One of the most common manifestations of AI today is in the presence of chatbots. Increasingly, organizations use chatbots as the first point of contact in customer service. They are available 24/7 and can effectively help a customer navigate their issue to a solution.
In recent years they have got quite good. If you have visited a website recently where a window pops up asking if you need some help, there’s a good chance you have been messaging with a chatbot.
One of Sweden’s largest retail banks, Swedbank, has deployed a very effective Chatbot called Nina. Nina helps customers with transactions and now deflects 80% of the 2 million calls Swedbank receive a year. This means the 700 contact centre agents they have across Europe, the US and China can now focus on adding value for customers.
But Nina is sooo 2016! Allow me to introduce you to Nadia-
Nadia is an “emotionally intelligent Avatar” built by a New Zealand-based start-up Soul Machines and voiced by Cate Blanchett. She can hear you and see you through your webcam and uses this data to be emotionally responsive.
“If Nadia detects that you’re upset about something, she may respond instantaneously to be more empathetic.” (Greg Cross)
It was developed for the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) in Australia using IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence technology as a cognitive back-end and FaceMe, an Auckland-based real-time video communication company.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of where this technology is going. Soon the AI behind chatbots like Nadia may start to replace websites and mobile apps as the primary interface for e-commerce. Whether it’s ordering a pizza, buying goods and services, or arranging travel, it won’t be too long before you will be able to type or speak what you want to do and your command will be granted. In this regard, AI is less like the Terminator and more like the Genie in Aladdin.
A Trillion Reasons why Insights Matter.
There’s no question the global interest in harnessing AI technology in the business community is growing. Forrester Research recently surveyed more than 600 businesses and tech professionals and found that 58% said their organization is researching AI but only 12% reported actually using AI in their business right now. It is estimated that the global market for artificial intelligence tech is expected to be worth US $153 billion by 2020.
“Across all businesses, there will be a greater than 300% increase in investment in artificial intelligence in 2017 compared with 2016…AI will provide business users access to powerful insights never before available to them.”
But this is only a subset of what will be a Trillion dollar market by 2020. In a new report “Predictions 2017: Artificial Intelligence Will Drive The Insights Revolution.” Forrester predicts that Businesses that use AI, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to uncover new business insights- “will steal $1.2 trillion per annum from their less informed peers by 2020…
The Democratisation of AI
Perhaps least sensational AI news of all could prove to be the most significant of all. The decision by the “big boys” (Google, Apple, Facebook) to open source all of their code in this area. For an industry that is notoriously secretive, this is a significant step and signifies just how important this area is. By having it all open source, innovators can piggyback on the breakthroughs of others, which will only expedite the rate of advancements.
Could we be witnessing an inflection point in the AI ecosystem where individual algo’s, platforms and test outcomes no longer stagnate in silos? The multi-billion dollar R&D budgets of the Tech goliaths can achieve great things alone but collaboration can further accelerate innovation. Perhaps this small development signals a change.
So the obvious question from all this is…
Should my business be looking at AI Technology yet?
Here are two simple questions to see if you may benefit from being an early adopter of AI in your market.
- Does your business have big volumes of data from which important business decisions could be made?
- Does your business spend large sums of money on customer service/support, that your customers rate at a low level?
If you answer Yes to one or both of the above then maybe it’s time to consider what AI could do for your customers and competitive position.
Investing in AI
At VenturesOne, we’re actively looking to invest in growth businesses that leverage AI to displace old thinking and business models with new, data-driven, customer offerings. If that sounds like something you are working on then drop me a line and I’ll have L.I.N.D.A. (my Loyal Intelligent Networked Dynamic Assistant), compute the most satisfactory reply instantly… then again, maybe I’ll just message you back!