Everyday AI: From Hype to Reality

Los Angeles, 2019: a rain-soaked metropolis of flying cars, street food markets and androids hiding in plain sight. Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie, offered a dystopian view of a future populated by dangerous robots.

The artificial intelligence disruption is already happening—but today’s AI doesn’t mean an army of human-like androids turning on their masters, but rather factories filled with smart robots and processes automated for maximum efficiency. Beyond factory walls, AI is increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives. By next year, 20 percent of all smartphone user interactions will take place via virtual private assistants, according to Gartner research.1

Thanks to AI advances in autonomous driving, we may all soon be hailing our own “Johnny Cab” (thanks to Arnie in Total Recall for nailing that prediction). Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, launched its first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix in December 2018, and local governments in Providence, Rhode Island and Dallas have signed up with autonomous mobility companies to roll out automated vehicle services.

The ability to embrace AI, however, is not solely the preserve of manufacturing or tech disruptors, and it can have real impact on the bottom line. According to Goldsmiths, University of London, companies that embraced AI outperformed companies that did not by 5 percent in terms of financial productivity.Dr. Chris Brauer, Director of Innovation at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, explains the advantage of embracing AI the right way: “Companies that had embraced AI in a way that brought in making work human, had brought their workforce along with them and had ethical guidelines and transparency to their practices were outperforming even those companies that had already embraced the technology by nine percent.”

Healthcare and AI

AI’s power to gather data, adapt it intuitively and rapidly deliver analysis is also offering hope for patients suffering life-changing illnesses. Canada-based Cognetivity Neurosciences has been using AI-based technology to help identify and speed up the diagnosis of dementia. According to the World Health Organization, the disease is forecast to affect 75 million people by 2030.

“Dementia is the biggest healthcare challenge of the 21st century,” says Sina Habibi, Cognetivity’s CEO. “Diagnosis is a huge problem.” The company has created an AI-based test that can help diagnose if patients are at risk of developing the disease. “If we make the diagnosis a lot earlier, then you can do something for patients before they become disabled. That will help give them a better life, and it helps reduce the cost. If you detect it earlier, you have a better chance of fighting it,” he says.

Retail and empowered consumers

A year since the launch of its virtual assistant service for customers, U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer recently announced that the AI-powered innovation has saved online sales worth $2.5 million that the company would otherwise have lost.2

Alongside larger operators, AI in the retail sector is also enabling nimble, disruptive operators to differentiate and succeed. Ivana Ojukwu, the COO of AI-based fashion app See Fashion, believes that the technology is changing the face of retail: “AI can make shopping for the consumer seamless and frictionless. It’s being able to analyze, predict, and serve me with the best product matches. That means I’m probably going to buy more. It’s a win-win for myself and the retailer.”

The AI productivity boost

Another fear surrounding AI is that automation and smart computers will render humans redundant. Research conducted so far, however, largely allays those fears. According to McKinsey: “AI has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030, or about 16 percent higher cumulative GDP compared with today. This amounts to 1.2 percent additional GDP growth per year.” An increase in GDP equates to increased wealth and job creation.

Defying predictions that we will all be replaced by robots, Amazon—one of the biggest tech-based disruptor companies that incorporates AI—increased its workforce from 17,000 in 2007 to 566,000 in 2017.3

According to McKinsey, by 2030 around 70 percent of companies will have adopted at least one type of AI technology. But, as Ojukwu explains, AI could eliminate routine tasks in order to create more fulfilling jobs. “It means getting rid of the mundane jobs and allowing people to do the higher-skilled jobs those roles were meant to be,” she says. “A sales assistant is going to be moving out of the cashier desk and having conversations with you [the customer]—understanding who you are, what you are looking for and educating you about the product.”

In order to ensure the role it plays enhances rather than damages businesses and their employees, Brauer concludes: “AI is often described as if it’s something that is happening to us, but it’s an extension of our humanity. It’s an extension of our desire to control the world around us and to create new opportunities for society through technology.”

1 https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2016-12-21-gartner-says-by-2019-20-percent-of-user-interactions-with-smartphones-will-take-place-via-vpas

2 https://digiday.com/marketing/year-marks-spencers-virtual-assistant-helped-drive-2-5m-sales/

3 https://www.statista.com/statistics/234488/number-of-amazon-employees

4 https://www.twilio.com/press/releases/release_marks&spencer_calls_on_twilio_to_transform_its_communications

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