Are AI assistants just a gimmick? Are they just for lazy teenagers who like to
give orders (Hey Siri...)? What are they exactly and should we be paying more attention?
Very recently Warren Buffet, not
known for his preference to technology, was asked about the impact of AI. He
that potentially AI could lead to 10.000 less jobs at his insurance company
Geico, something we have never seen before. He also said that AI could be
"enormously disruptive, yet beneficial in making the economy more
Inevitably, AI assistants will
eventually implement the changes he is referring to.
But what exactly is an AI Assistant?
It all started with
an early natural language processing computer
program created using the LISP computer programming language in 1964 (!) at
the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory by Joseph Weizenbaum.
Created to demonstrate how superficial man - machine communication could be by
simulating conversation using pattern matching and word substitution, ELIZA gave
users an illusion of understanding, but in fact had no built-in framework for
This is the
huge difference with today’s (and tomorrow’s) AI Assistants.
Given the following:
• a Natural Language Processing module,
• a Knowledge Base / Ontology,
• an Inference Engine,
• a Voice Recognition / Text-to-speech service,
• an Image Recognition Service, and
• and a Machine Learning based Personalization module
all implemented on powerful cloud based infrastructure, you have
a powerful AI Assistant ‘digital employee’.
You can then teach it to provide customer support, sell insurance
policies, teach, advise on stock trading, tell you which car to buy and the list goes
on. The more AI Assistants are used, the better they will get. No more overseas
help desk outsourcing. The future of 'robotics' is actually in software and not in hardware.
AI Assistants will redefine Search and
AI Assistants will revolutionize search and advertising. Google will have to
reinvent itself as a personalized AI Assistant. It has already begun the
process with Google Assistant
but at the peril of this being a ‘backup’ side
project that will distract resources rather than focus on what should be the
main goal. The same of course applies to all major search engines.
Significance of AI Assistants
Assistants are not just a speech to text interface to search. They are the most
significant dimension of AI technology, and they are evolving quickly. It is no
coincidence that Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Samsung are all
investing in this.