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AI – Current uses and future applications

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ai-artificial-intelligenceWhen you hear about artificial intelligence, a few things may come to mind. You may firstly think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a leather jacket saying that he’ll be back. You may even think of an implacable computer willfully ignoring your requests in a sci-fi film. We are however already finding ourselves surrounded by AI and using it on a daily basis, sometimes without realizing. I’d therefore like to talk a little about what AI is currently used for and how it will shape businesses and the rest of the world in coming years.

AI in Practice

One of the most common forms of AI you’ll run into are virtual assistants. These are now common on phones and computers, think Siri or Alexa. They use speech recognition to identify requests. They can subsequently provide an answer or perform a function such as loading a webpage or adding a calendar appointment. Although these can be classed as AI, they are quite basic compared to our expectations of artificial intelligence.

The AI components largely come from an ability to recognize speech and translate that into a command for the computer to action. So if you say “Alexa, I’m going to lunch with Tim and Sara on Friday at 3pm, please add it to my diary” then the activation word of Alexa starts recording your request. The words are converted to text and the important information of a diary entry for Friday at 3pm is created with the subject “lunch with Tim and Sara” and is translated into a command for the computer.

You’re also likely to have run into AI that works similarly to virtual assistants in online customer support chat sessions. Here, your first requests and the first questions you’re asked will come from an AI system. These will refer you to the correct department and gather any account information. Sometimes, they will even action a resolution without a person ever being involved.

On the more complex end of current AI use, we have self-driving cars. These use LIDAR and machine learning to identify hazards and road markings and take appropriate action. Although this is a more difficult task in many ways, the principle is still the same.  A program is taught that certain hazards and signs should lead to certain actions.

As I’m sure you can see from the last 2 examples, AI has made itself very useful but at quite limited things. We’re still a long way off a proper thinking computer. In truth, AI in its current incarnations is only capable of excelling at a small number of things. IBM’s Watson was created to recognise advanced speech. It won the American game show, Jeopardy, but would fail at a game of chess unlike the much older Deep Blue. In the future, we can expect to see more joined up AI solutions, capable of a range of tasks. All involve taking in data, analysing that data and then providing an appropriate command for a computer to action.

Final Thoughts

With enough development, we may see the following scenarios. Online support chats that never have to refer to an actual human. Self-driving cars that are safer than human drivers. Computer systems that can take on entire tasks such as accounting and payroll automatically. We may even see AI that can perform creative tasks such as writing music based on analysing certain styles.

As it stands though, AI can only excel at a single task. This can potentially free up a person for a more advanced and involved task, thereby improving efficiency. These systems however are only going to get more advanced in the coming years. The number of applications available to us is also going to expand. I would therefore recommend keeping an eye on new developments to see how we can use AI to make our lives and jobs easier. Let’s just hope the AI we develop will open the pod bay doors when we ask…

 


AUTHOR: Matthew Ditch, IT Support Engineer

Matthew is a valued member of our support team. He looks after the computer systems of our customers to ensure they run smoothly and efficiently. He is also on hand to resolve any issues that arise so employees can work effectively.


 

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