Conversational AI And Intelligent Digital Assistants: How Technology Is Changing Our Lives
What time is it?
What is the weather?
What is the latest on the race for a COVID-19 vaccine?
With virtual personal assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, you don’t even need to open your eyes to get all the information needed to start your day.
Yes, reality is starting to look more and more like the classic sci-fi cartoon ‘The Jetsons’, and it’s not even 2062 yet.
Critics still have concerns about privacy and increased reliance on technology, but it would be difficult to deny that artificial intelligence makes life easier.
So what exactly is conversational AI?
Quite simply it is an app, device, or something else that enables a conversation between a human being an AI.
Steve Jobs once said “ It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” Technology is bringing subtle and big changes to our everyday life.
Say hello to a chatbot
Not all chatbots are equal, but they are quickly becoming a ‘must have’ for any business with an established online presence, and a key part of customer experiences.
Yes, some of those chatbots are so basic that it’s annoying. For example, you may have wondered why bother with digital assistants that merely give a website address when asked a question.
But contextual assistants are really great for people who can’t sleep and like to get things done at 3 am.
Just a few of the things that are now possible with chatbots or digital agents:
- Sign up for homeowners insurance in under 2 minutes
- Get cognitive behavioural therapy
- Find a job
- Order late night pizza
- Endless options for customer support
Of course, some people will still crave, or require, an actual human conversation to get everything on their list accomplished. But with natural language processing continuing to improve every year, the user experience with a chatbot will be anticipated and smooth.
Intelligent digital assistants could substantially boost personal productivity
Before the 2020 stay at home orders and quarantines, many people genuinely thought working from home would be a breeze. Skipping the morning commute meant sleeping in a little later, eating a relaxing breakfast, and wearing comfy clothes ‘to work’.
But real life isn’t like the movies. Entire families were home; so parents stressed over how to supervise online school while also sitting through endless Zoom meetings. Because no one had anywhere to go, work emails seeped into the evenings.
So what actually happened in some cases was less work getting done over a much longer period. People were still in ‘the office’ late at night. There is already a considerable discussion on whether this will permanently shift attitudes on the work-life balance.
Cue the AI assistants….
Everyone is different; so there are folks who are suited to working from home and having a blurred between the work day and family/ personal time.
For others, the best approach is a more structured schedule.
Voice and text based communication interfaces, like the Amazon Echo or Google Assistant, could be the solution. The devices are affordable and small, but pack a big punch when it comes to their ability to grow through machine learning.
Sit in a chair too long? Set a timer to go off every 20 minutes.
Forget to eat lunch because there are no co-workers to remind you? Set an alarm that activates every day at noon.
Start the day off with a virtual ‘to do list’, to squeeze in time for calling the boss, getting the laundry done, and taking out the recyclables.
Remember the old home intercoms? Send a message through a personal assistant device to someone else’s device in another room…. or in another home!
Use smart plugs for things like lights, fans, the TV, and even a Christmas Tree, and save time and money by giving voice commands to turn off…. or use an app to turn power on or off.
A voice in the darkness
There has been a great deal of talk this year on mental health, especially as health officials continue to recommend social distancing.
Even self described introverts are finding it all very difficult.
While restrictions are easing in some jurisdictions, the message continues to be on social media to closely interact in person - with as few people as possible.
Interacting with speech based assistants isn’t the same as meeting a friend at a coffee shop, but they do provide a conversational experience.
Assistant apps allow for more and more customization, and therefore, countless ways to make life easier, engaging, and perhaps a little less lonely.
- Set up a daily routine and with a simple ‘Alexa, good morning’——instantly get the latest news, weather, and traffic report.
- Need a compliment (even something totally silly) or some supporting words? Program Alexa to say what you want to hear using Sidekick on the app. Just don’t expect an unbiased opinion on whether having a second slice of chocolate cake is a good idea!
- Google Home devices can well—- google anything you need and check your calendar and email. Add credit card details and ordering a taxi is simple with Google Assistant.
- Siri is also on the block, allowing you to personalize the interaction and performing tasks, like playing a favourite song.
Some advice, though, if you are one of the millions of people around the world with sleep problems and consider turning to voice assistants to help…
— Playing rain sounds does work.
— Asking the time every five minutes isn’t a great idea!