In the original Blade Runner—set in 2019—technologists had already developed replicant humans and flying cars. Although I’m doubtful we’ll hit that mark in real life, I’d venture we’re not too far off. Indeed, artificial intelligence (AI) has already become an everyday part of life for most humans in 2017. We use it at work and at home—often without even realizing. As we close out the year, I’d say there isn’t much artificial intelligence hasn’t touched. The big question now is: how much farther will it go? Although some tech gurus like to focus on the big-time futuristic predictions of AI—machine learning robots and self-driving cars—I think we’re most likely to see AI growth in the following five areas throughout 2018. (Don’t worry—no blade runners required.)
It may not sexy, but it’s what most companies will be focusing on when it comes to AI this coming year. With the steady growth of data produced by the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses will be turning to machine learning to process, trend, and analyze the information. Indeed, machine learning AI isn’t just a nice-to-havein 2018; it’s a must-have. It’s the only way companies can make valuable sense of the flow of data—both structured and unstructured—coming in. In fact, I’d reckon that any company without an AI data strategy may well do away with their data lakes altogether. It will simply be too much for any human to manage. (If you don’t yet have an AI strategy in place, don’t worry. Forrester predicts up to 80% of firms will rely on “insights-as-a-Service” in at least some capacity in 2018.)
More Human-like Help
Humans simply can’t keep up with the speed at which technology—and customer demands—are moving. That’s why more and more businesses are moving toward harnessing the power of conversational AI chatbots and other virtual assistants to manage the day-to-day flow of work. It is estimated that some 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed by AI by 2020.
In the near-term, we’ll likely see an increased focus on bot sensitivity training, which will allow humans to offload even more work on chatbot shoulders. And I’m not just talking about business. Amazon’s Alexa recently began syncing with Outlook and Google to help families keep up with their hectic schedules. Meanwhile, a new virtual assistant from X.ai called “Amy” can be trusted to respond to messages regarding meetings, meals, and calls without ever alerting the sender she’s a bot. We may not be ready for the Jetsons’ Rosie, but we’re getting closer.
Siri—and Other Tech—Will Hear You Better
Ugh, the pain of voice-texting a message, only to find you need to edit nearly every word because Siri didn’t get it. My guess is we’ll finally get a handle on conversational technology in 2018, including not just emotional sensitivity, but translational technology that allows us to communicate seamlessly between languages. This is big for both business and personal life, as I recently discussed in The Many Benefits of Conversational AI. Amazon is already training Alexa to recognize speech patterns that may be indicative of suicide. Eventually, bots may be able to perform psychiatric counseling or serve as a support network for those who are isolated.
Smart Automation Continues
Have you noticed Amazon’s subscription order services? When you purchase day-to-day products, it actually auto-populates your order to schedule regular delivery of these items—whether it’s paper towels, laundry, detergent, or dog food—on a weekly or monthly basis. Talk about locking you in to future sales. Just as AI has already shaken up the marketing industry with its ability to personalize marketing campaigns—and even tweak them in real-time—we’ll continue to see AI bringing smart automation to an even wider range of industries—from retail product delivery to machine maintenance, energy conservation, and more.
AI Adoption will Continue to Grow
OK, this may not warrant its own bullet, but I just wanted to emphasize the fact that AI isn’t going anywhere. In fact, as the technology continues to refine itself, engineers are finding even greater—and more granular—uses for it, in all aspects of our lives. Yes, robots and self-flying delivery drones are cool. But the things we’re seeing now—and into 2018—are perhaps just as amazing. They have the power to take much of the drudgery out of our daily work and personal lives—something pretty much all of us can rally behind as we close another active year of tech advancement.
This article was first published on Forbes.