AI ≠ Alexa


hen we speak of artificial intelligence (AI), we instantly picture 'assistants' like Alexa performing tasks for us, ordering groceries, playing music and managing our schedules. In the not-so-distant future, AI will evidently take over our jobs, manage our personal tasks, and collaborate with us across multiple spheres. But AI doesn't stop at Alexa-like capabilities. At the current pace, we'll soon have AI agents that will know us inside out, freeing our time so we can focus on what we do best. Let's explore the full range of possibilities of the future of AI.

A Mutual Understanding

Currently, AI cannot explain why they made a particular decision. In the future, this will change. Researchers are working to make machine-learning systems more predictable and trustworthy. Digital assistants will then be able to offer explanations such as why they picked a certain driving route or why a different word in an email will sound more professional.

With emotional AI, our assistants will be able to better understand us, reading our facial expressions, picking cues from the tone of our voice. IBM's Watson is believed to analyze text not just for emotion but also tone. With time, it will be able to detect personality as well. Don't be surprised if, in the future, AI is able to easily tell your emotions.

Talking Without Speaking

While Alexa can be communicated with by talking, voice-controlled AI devices will soon be a voice in your head. Companies like Sony and Apple are developing wireless earbuds with microphones, which means your AI assistant will be able to discreetly talk to you. What's even more interesting is that you will be able to talk back without making a sound. NASA has a sensor-based system that interprets nerve activity in the throat to detect if someone's speaking - the system can the tell what words are being spoken even when someone barely moves their lips.

Creative AI

In 1997, Gary Kasparov lost a match to the supercomputer Deep Blue. What later became apparent is that even an amateur with a mediocre computer would be able to outmatch the smartest player or a powerful computer working alone. This paved the way for human-computer collaborations in the arts and sciences. Computational creativity, a field of AI, forges algorithms that can paint, write, tell jokes, systems perfect for augmenting human imagination. IBM's Watson has been doing creative collaborations – suggesting clips from a movie for the trailer, it allowed the editor to have a finished product in a day rather than in weeks. It isn't far-fetched to imagine digital assistants co-authoring a blog or even a novel.

Getting Attached

Will we eventually form emotional bonds with AI agents that speak to us in human voices and seem to really understand us? A lot of movies have explored the theme of people partnering with virtual companions. Questions such as the ownership of our virtual companions, privacy, law enforcement, security breach are naturally being asked.

Move Over Alexa

While Alexa may be dominating the B2C market, IBM Watson is fast taking over the B2B segment. Even though forecasts seem to be in favor of Amazon's speaker, IBM is creating an assistant with advanced conversational skills specific to corporate customers. Watson has been trained for use in automotive and hospitality and comes with a customizable framework for building AI consumer applications for other industries too.

Major players - Google, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Amazon, IBM – have invested billions of dollars in the voice assistant segment. According to estimates, the number of active devices will grow to nearly 7.5 billion by 2021. So even if Alexa may be dominating the voice assistant market at present, other players are fast spreading their wings and gaining market share. Clearly, Alexa will not be the end of AI.