14th March 2018
Rapid advances in AI technology has meant that science fiction is now becoming science fact. Computers that can understand human language to such accuracy are becoming so widespread that today 35% of American children speak to their device rather than type.
Thanks to AI there is now a mind-boggling number of innovations exploding onto the market. From clever banking apps to the unusual uses of lamp posts, we’ve taken a look at just some of the ways AI technology has embedded itself into our every day lives without us realising.
Remember the last time you went to your bank’s branch to deposit a cheque? Me neither. Thanks to AI, many of the large banks enable customers to ‘deposit’ cheques remotely, through a smartphone app.
According to a 2014 SEC filing, the vast majority of major banks rely on technology developed by Mitek, which uses AI and machine learning (ML) to decipher and convert handwriting on cheques into text via OCR.
Facebook is essentially a giant algorithm, which serves up personalised content to users based on the topics they ‘know’ you’re interested in (based on your data). In addition, like Apple technology, Facebook now uses AI to suggest who to tag when you upload a photo. It can instantly identify users’ friends in the image by using artificial neural networks – ML algorithms that mimic the structure of the human brain – to power facial recognition software. In 2016 Facebook announced a new AI initiative called DeepText, a text understanding engine that is being used to understand “with near-human accuracy the textual content of several thousand posts per second, spanning more than 20 languages.”
Amazon and e-commerce sites
Amazon has long been the pioneer of AI: the recommendations such as “customers who viewed this item also viewed” and “customers who bought this item also bought”, as well as via personalised recommendations on the homepage, bottom of item pages and emails, are all being powered using AI. It too is using artificial neural networks to generate these product recommendations, which in some reports suggest this has lead to a 30% increase in sales for the company.
The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics saw technologies being used that will soon become commonplace on the high street. One of the tech highlights of the games was an AI robot called FURO, short for “Future Robot”. The bot was used as a concierge service, or helper, providing information on schedules, transport and attractions to those attending the event. Visitors could interact with the bot by asking it a question. Due to its AI-powered capabilities, FURO could translate and understand 29 languages and respond in the same language as the person who was asking the question. Using an AI-based app called Genie Talk, it worked by interacting with a free companion app downloadable on smartphones.
Other AI Robots have started to be trialled in the States. The home improvement retailer Lowe’s introduced the LoweBot at its stores in San Francisco in 2016. Customers can ask LoweBot – by speaking or using a touch screen – where to find items they need inside the store. Shoppers can also ask the robot some basic customer service questions that would otherwise need to be addressed to a human worker.
The robot is also used to perform real-time inventory tracking as it goes up and down the aisles. The information LoweBot gathers as it works is supposed to help identify shopping patterns at the location, so that way the retailer can not only resupply its shelves but also get more understanding of which merchandise moves more quickly, and during which days of the week or seasons.
Smart lamp posts
It’s not an object you’d immediately think of as ripe for digital disruption, but the humble lamp post is now being put to greater use in Barcelona. Fitted with smart sensors, the Catalonian lamp posts collect data on air and noise pollution, temperature and humidity, and even crowd flows, giving officials key data to improve city life and predict future needs, they even broadcast free wifi across the city. The lamp posts are also smart at their original function, they dim when not needed and brighten again when pedestrians come near, conserving energy and saving money at the same time.
Everyone loves a Domino’s, not necessarily because they do the best pizza, but because they have used technology to remove the friction from placing an order. This company has been an early adopter of all the tech trends, such as allowing customers to Tweet their orders using a pizza emoji to its customised app, which allows users to order and track deliveries using gamification. Now the pizza company is taking AI a step further beyond customer experience to the supply chain. It is using it to track the usage of ingredients in every region by the gram – meaning it can continually drive efficiencies.
Finally, one of the areas in which Domino’s is really hoping to stand out using AI is pioneering driverless vehicles. In March 2016, the company announced it is developing a driverless vehicle, the Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU), in Australia to deliver its pizzas. Using GPS data it’s gathered over the years from its human drivers, it proposes to use the automated vehicle to make delivery rounds, although as yet the DRU won’t be taking to the streets tomorrow.