The pursuit of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology is an interest that has sparked numerous debates, concerns, and excitement, but the emotion behind the recent publicity may be overblown. AI is not a new concept, though it is one that consumers and big brands are discussing globally as people begin to focus in on particular technologies.
Regarding the consumer-driven AI technology boom, it's clear that the trend of AI is more relevant today than it was even a decade ago. While the objectives of the field have not changed – producing intelligent systems to tackle common problems – the consumer understanding of what AI is and what it can be has become skewed.
AI operates best when you don't know it's there and doesn't require input from you. It just works.
Excellent AI functionality aims to make the lives of consumers easier. It behaves so well that, when employed, people don't notice it. In essence, it's boring. This mild invisibility factor is at the core of a successful AI deployment.
As high-tech companies focus on developing rousing, newsworthy concepts, such as robots and self-driving cars, the primary AI developments already available are fading from our memories and worthy of a reminder. Various AI technologies have been in use for many years, yet consumers hardly acknowledge their existence and take them for granted. When AI flies under the radar, it's an accomplishment, though it doesn't mean it's not deserving of our recognition.
The concept of intelligent personal assistants, such as Siri, was a significant innovation in the world of artificial intelligence. A substantial amount of work went into crafting the underlying technology, and while it was a novelty for iPhone users in 2011, it has now become an expectation of consumers that it should exist, and a source of annoyance when it doesn’t work flawlessly.
Recommendation engines were also a great step forward for AI developers. Amazon has commissioned the functionality for years, initially showcasing book recommendations to readers based on previous purchases. Services such as Netflix, Google Search, social media, and even online dating sites have all applied AI functionalities to their applications to improve the user experience, and they have all performed so flawlessly that people hardly take notice of its presence. Meanwhile, consumers are drawn to experiences that are augmented by AI and machine learning, subconsciously experiencing better brand interactions.
Other AI innovations, such as virtual customer service agents (or chatbots), prove to be significantly useful for online businesses. Chatbots are built with AI functionality and are programmed to interact with website users and respond to their feedback or questions in real-time. These bots learn and adapt to user interactions as time progresses and develop a more intuitive response system than someone sitting behind a desk, multi-tasking, and costing companies thousands of dollars each year.
AI for the sake of AI is not useful. It must solve a problem.
Concerning the media focus on self-driving cars as an AI technology revolution, it’s worthy of the hype. It is an exciting technological development that a vehicle can recognize the environment around it and respond to that environment appropriately and safely.
While flashy AI trends are ideal for garnering PR, they do little for small to medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) that are interested in adopting this technology. These operations are not concerned with delivering the next trend in AI; they’re looking to improve their customer’s experience with their brand. For this to happen, the publicity factor must be scaled back to implement the AI trends that are realistic to their business, such as chatbots, recommendation engines for e-commerce websites, and services that are core to either improving their customer experience or streamlining their internal processes.
There are real opportunities to use AI to its full effect and have it make a difference for a business.
Being on the inside of AI is a perspective unlike that of consumers. What excites the creators of breakthrough AI technology isn't about the attractiveness of the final product, it's about the way it works. Does it solve a problem? Does it improve someone's experience with a brand? If the data and algorithms behind the development are sound, it will behave so well that consumers won't even notice it's there. This ability to go unnoticed is what is essential to creating any AI-based product.
From a developer standpoint, creating AI has always been a fascinating challenge. The hurdle of taking it from concept to fruition is becoming more attainable, as many companies are already collecting the data (or are ready to) and open-source AI technology is becoming increasingly accessible. This access to ready-built technology means that AI developers are no longer building products from scratch.
We will soon see AI thrive among SMB’s. Adaptive and efficient AI integrations will quickly transform how businesses operate and, if done correctly, these improvements will go unnoticed by consumers.
If you’re an SMB owner who is looking to solve a business problem using AI technology – or are an AI specialist who loves to talk shop – take a moment to reach out to our team to discuss some of the new and promising AI trends that are changing the way we do business.
Vicki Iverson is co-founder and CTO of Iversoft. As the brains behind the technical development, she has led the team to design and develop 150+ apps and games for clients worldwide. Since the company’s inception in 2009, Vicki has helped build a strong, collaborative team and a growing, profitable business. Vicki is a mentor and strong advocate for women in technology and actively encourages youth to pursue STEM careers. In recognition of her work, Vicki has received the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce 2016 Forty Under 40 award, the 2017 Women in Communications and Technology Entrepreneur of the Year, and the J.W. Graham Medal in Computing & Innovation from the University of Waterloo. Vicki has a mathematics degree in computer science from the University of Waterloo and a master of science in artificial intelligence from the University of Toronto.
If you’d like to work with Vicki and her team at Iversoft on an AI-based project, contact sales at firstname.lastname@example.org.