“I’m home,” says John Anderton as the house lights turn on and classical music starts playing. A few seconds later John says, “Overhead,” and lights above the table turn on. Does Amazon Echo and Google Home ring a bell? Anderton heads a team of agents preventing crime before it happens in a movie called Minority Report, released over a decade ago in 2002.
Set in 2054, the movie depicted advanced applications of artificial intelligence such as speech and eye recognition, autonomous cars, personalized marketing and robots. We are slowly seeing these technologies today, though in various forms and rates of development and application.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has a long history and is constantly changing in terms of growth and scope. In fact, a Stanford report suggests that the lack of a precise, universally accepted definition of AI is a result of its evolution at an ever-accelerating pace. However, for guidance, Stanford emeritus faculty member Nild J. Nilsson defines AI to be any “activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.”
The development of AI over the years shows a consistent trend called the “AI effect.” It begins with bringing a new AI-technology into widespread use. People don’t necessarily see that the programs or devices they interact with are powered by AI, so they end up thinking that AI research has no concrete outcomes. In other words, once people become accustomed to this technology, it is no longer considered AI, and then new technology appears. “AI does not ‘deliver’ a life-changing product as a bolt from the blue.” It only improves in a continual, incremental way, says the Stanford report–the same way it gradually seeps into our everyday lives.
Having numerous, tangible applications today, AI has come a long way since Minority Report. While there are no precogs or mutated humans as seen in the movie, we already have glimpses of what we only used to see in science fiction. Nowadays, it is common to read about and even encounter actual AI-equipped devices anywhere such as consumer products in the market and prototypes in research labs.
Above anything, the goal of AI applications must be to create value for society. As AI development continues, let’s look at six amazing applications of AI that have the greatest potential to change humanity in the next three years.
1. Autonomous cars
Smarter cars are one of the most popular applications of AI for the general public that is increasingly available for use. Notwithstanding reliability and safety concerns, autonomous cars enable humans to be more productive in other aspects of their lives. We all know about Google’s self-driving cars, which have logged more than 1,500,000 miles (300,000 miles without an accident). Tesla, on the other hand, recently released a software update for its semi-autonomous cars, making them much safer.
Tesla Autopilot is included in MIT’s 2016 Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies. The breakthrough is a car that drives itself safely in a variety of conditions. It matters because it prevents car crashes. An upgrade from the October 2014 release, the Tesla Autopilot comes with sensors, camera, front radar and digitally controlled breaks to help avoid collisions. The new software and hardware features allow the car to take over in case of accidents. Moreover, the car can’t start in Autopilot without the right set of data which include clear lane lines, constant speed, sense of cars around you, and map of the travel area. For Tesla’s Founder and CEO, Elon Musk, as the hardware for true autonomy is in place, the transition could be done within two years.
Being connected to the internet through multiple devices is one of the most common and widespread applications of technology. Providing seamless experience and usage, internet-connected devices have many positive outcomes. For instance, they enable the individual to accomplish daily tasks at a faster rate and businesses to foster collaborations across physical borders. However, going digital has accompanying security risks such as credit card fraud.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2016 report considers AI to be one of the ten competitive technology-driven influencers in the financial industry for 2020. It challenges businesses to consider their future operating models in light of these key technologies. PwC also identified cybersecurity to be an increasing if not permanent concern over the next years.
Developments in refining and strengthening cybersecurity are mounting and more are continuously available. A new system developed by researchers at MIT predicts 85 percent of cyber-attacks using input from human experts. The research shows that by bringing together the strengths of fraud analyst and machine learning, better results can be achieved in fighting cybercrime.
3. AI health
In healthcare, while developments are slow due to strict regulations and lack of trust, Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System provides a platform for robotically-assisted, minimally-invasive surgery. The system is currently used in nearly three-quarter of a million procedures a year. Moreover, in the 2016 industry report prepared by Frost and Sullivan, studies show that using AI as a decision support tool resulted to excellent treatment and patient outcomes coupled with drastic reduction in diagnostic and treatment costs.
Another major development in health that has the potential to impact human lives at a rapid pace is the availability of a DNA App Store. Considered a breakthrough technology by MIT, it makes genetic information widely accessible online. DNA App Store makes it cheap and easy to learn more about health risks and predispositions uniquely for every individual.
4. Voice control
We are already familiar with speech recognition software such as Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. However, these technologies are far from perfect–mishearing and misinterpreting commands especially in noisy environments.
However, the future is positive for speech recognition, according to Baidu’s chief scientist and associate professor at Stanford University Andrew Ng. He shared with MIT, “I see speech approaching a point where it could become so reliable that you can just use it and not even think about it.” Gartner even predicted that by the end of 2018, “Customer digital assistants will recognize customers by face and voice across channels and partners.”
As speech recognition becomes more reliable, it enables people to focus more on tasks that matter. Providing time for people to do other things sparks creativity, innovation, and a better life in general.
5. AI for Business
Remember the scene in Minority Report when Anderton entered a mall, greeted by a hologram using his name and mentioning the last item he bought from the store? Although holograms are not going to be a common feature in malls any time soon, very similar personalized marketing is made possible by AI today.
By driving insights from large amount of data being produced every day at a fast pace, AI-enabled software enables marketing and sales to provide intelligent customer engagement. Presenting the right offer, the right product, and the right content to the right prospect in your database of millions of customers is a task that only predictive marketing and sales can do. AI-infused predictive marketing and sales allows marketers to do that at scale and near real-time.
Being able to process big data at scale is a competitive advantage today. Businesses know this, so predictive marketing and sales that provides the best personalized experience to customers is a game changer in the years to come.
6. Online learning
While still requiring active engagement by human teachers, the impact of AI in education comes in providing personalization at scale. The 2016 Stanford study reports that AI advances in education have been improving for the past 15 years. Applications range from K-12 to university settings both physical and online. It predicts that before long AI technologies will be assisting teachers in the classroom and in the home.
Moreover, as learning becomes more digital, learning analytics will enable the prediction of which students are at risk of failure and the provision of real-time student feedback attached with learning outcomes. Pearson is already working on this. Teaming up with and using IBM’s Watson AI product, Pearson introduces a virtual tutor. Checking students’ understanding and providing feedback to human teachers, the virtual tutor makes education more personalized for students.
As AI is continuously improved and applied in education at the same time as more people become digitally connected, the impact is massive in terms of making education more accessible. Increasing the quality and reach of education, which is a great asset for any individual, is one of the many benefits of an AI-enriched world.
Technology is constantly evolving. New applications of AI will continuously emerge. AI provides innovative solutions and added value to anyone who has the open mind and ability to leverage it.
As any other opportunity, the challenge that comes with using AI depends on its use. Beyond a marketers’ perspective, society should approach AI thinking about its long-lasting effects and ensuring that sustainability is in place for future generations.