When the iPhone introduced us to Siri and her dulcet tones, artificial intelligence (AI) became mainstream. Answering fundamental questions or checking the weather, AI has been behind consumers’ thirst for fast and convenient information, pushing tech companies to rollout this technology to help the consumer. From Google to Sony to Facebook, the big names in tech are heavily investing in AI and knowingly or not, we’re all benefiting from these advances. Booked an Uber lately? Your journey time has been calculated in part using AI tech.
The rise of the ‘born-on-digital’ consumer who favours chatbots and ecommerce over actually communicating directly is changing the game and those already using intelligent voice assistants are leading a behavioural change. Ultimately, we’ll use body language, intonation, touch and gestures to interact with tech just like we do with people; in fact two out of three think this will happen in just three years. Eighty-one percent of voice assistant users actually believe such traditional input devices will be a thing of the past in only five years. Will we be happy about that? If direct interaction turns out to be more convenient, then yes.
There are many devices that could also be replaced by direct interaction. For example, the advanced internet users in a survey voted self-driving cars as the next tech gadget that people everywhere will eventually buy. This means not only the end of steering wheels and pedals, but also calls for cars to directly interact with pedestrians – how does someone waiting at a crossing know if it’s clear go if there’s no driver in the car to signal at them?
Apple is rolling out its Business Chat feature within iMessage (only available in US at present) that allows consumers to chat directly with companies through Apple’s messaging platform. This shows Apple’s intent to move the consumer communication for payments and messaging to its own platform and away from traditional players like FB messenger, Google and Twitter, not to mention WhatsApp which now also have a business app.
AI can also be used to provide services such as digital shoppers to simplify the shopping process while providing personalised experiences to increase customer loyalty. Sure, there’s plenty of hype, but AI technologies are still in their infancy and if a retailer doesn’t already value data and analytics for their current operations, investing in an AI solution may not be appropriate. The technology itself is still growing and changing at a rapid rate and understanding how these technologies can be applied to retail is also still evolving.
I take an optimistic view of this technology, and its impact is only just being felt. While there is fear around increased automation and the effect on workers’ jobs, there’s a historical comparison with the car industry, where over 100 hundred years ago jobs around horse drawn carriages disappeared following the advent of the automobile. This translated to even more jobs being created around the car industry including uses for the combustion engine in mining and aviation. We have seen a doubling of jobs being advertised in Australia since 2015 related to AI skills, as companies invest and plan for a world where consumers expect a high level of customisation and response from their retailers and service providers.
“The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most.” —Elon Musk.
About the author
Paul Carroll has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, and is currently CEO at Pure SEO Australia.