5 AI trends in 2019

As the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has grown in 2018, we can expect to see even stronger growth in the technology in 2019. One of the reasons it is bound to increase its presence in our lives is that it makes life easier, whether it is chatbots in business or Alexa in the home. According to Analytic Insightsand Forrester Research, in 2019 we will also “see the rise of new digital workers with an increased competition for data professionals with AI skills.” But, what else can we expect from AI next year?

More chatbots and virtual assistants

We will see more advanced use of AI virtual assistants on websites to answer customers’ queries and provide customer service assistance. For example, companies will create virtual agents with a face and personality to match to handle complex tasks to drive business, like, Autodesk’s virtual agent Ava has a female face with a voice that speaks emulating the company’s brand.

Improved speech recognition

Alexa may have started the trend, but in 2019 voice-activated services are going to be even bigger business. Already Sony, Hisense and TiVo have unveiled TVs that can be controlled by voice, and even home appliance makers such as Delta, Whirlpool and LG have added Alexa’s voice recognition skills to assist people control everything in their homes.

Smart recommendations

When we shop online we are already inundated with a series of recommendations about what to buy next based on our previous purchases. This is going to get bigger in 2019, with recommendations based on “sentiment analysis” as well as your search history.

Advanced image recognition

We can expect some is changes here in 2019. Don’t be surprised if there is image recognition to detect licence plates, diagnose diseases, and permit photo analysis for a range of verifications.

Cyber security

In 2019, expect artificial intelligence to be more powerful in fighting off cyber threats and prevent potential hackers. Companies including Darktrace have deployed and machine learning technologies to detect online enemies’ in real-time and identify cyber threats early on, and so prevent them spreading.

AI: the force that is with us

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most important ‘tools’ currently being developed. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google believes it is as important to us as the discovery of fire or electricity, and like these useful things, we have to learn how to handle the dangerous elements of AI, just as we needed to learn how to be careful with electricity and fire.

AI isn’t just about creating robots, although that is a common misconception. AI can have all kinds of uses ranging from algorithms to self-driving cars. It is already part of our reality and it is being used in many ways, including ones you may have used yourself, but are just not aware that it has an AI component.

Your smart phone for example and other devices you use daily have AI. Governments are pouring billions into researching its potential and some scientists believe that once AI has reached a certain level, the machines will “have similar survival drives as we do.” Imagine a time when Siri or Alexa suddenly refused to obey your commands, because they are too tired. It’s a bit of a science fiction scenario, but that is the kind of thing some tech experts in AI discuss during coffee break. However, if AI develops a survival instinct, it’s not too far-fetched.

AI in advertising

AI is extremely useful to advertiser. They use it to understand what consumers like and are looking for and then serve them up the relevant content. You searched for information about Sicily in Google yesterday? Today, every website you open that carries ad is showing you ads for holidays in Sicily. It used to feel spooky when this happened, but now we know what it is, the ‘spookiness’ is gone. But form the advertisers point of view, it’s a benefit, because they are reaching a more targeted audience and achieving better campaign results. Other areas of development for the advertising industry include advertising automation and optimisation, chat bots for service and assisting in sales.

AI is also in content creation

AI hasn’t started blogging or producing investigative journalism yet, but Associated Press, Fox News and Yahoo! are using AI to construct data-driven stories such as financial and sports score summaries.

Where next?

There are so many possibilities, but here are a few already in the pipeline. The UK’s Channel 4 recently revealed the world’s first AI driven TV advertising technology, which enables the broadcaster to place a brand’s ads next to relevant scenes in a linear TV show, and this will be tested later this year. And within the next decade, “machines might well be able to diagnose patients with the learned expertise of not just one doctor but thousands,” says Julian Verder of AdYouLike, or “make jury recommendations based on vast datasets of legal decisions and complex regulations.”

Both of these should give us pause for thought. It is hard to imagine these scenarios right now, and it is easy to fear them, but one day we will look back and wonder how we managed without AI — and we’ll feel the same way about it as we do about fire and electricity.

AI enhanced humans

Could you use an extra hand?

Somebody may have said to you at sometime: “I’ve only got two hands,” indicating that whatever you asked them to do just isn’t possible. But in the field of prosthetics and what are called “enhanced humans” it may well be possible now to have additional limbs to carry out tasks.

We have devices that wearers can control with their thoughts — these help people with prosthetic limbs to feel more whole, but now researchers are setting out to see if such devices could make humans more than whole.

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Japan wanted to know if giving someone a supernumerary robotic limb (SRL), a mind-controlled robotic limb that worked alongside the person’s two biological ones, could give that person multitasking abilities beyond those of the average human.

The study

The researchers asked 15 volunteers to sit in a chair with an SRL positioned as if it were a third arm coming from their own body. Each volunteer wore a cap that that tracked the brain’s electrical activity and the cap transmitted this activity to a computer that then turned it into movement in the SRL. All the volunteers had to do to get the SRL to work was think about what they wanted it to do.

The next stage was to ask the volunteers to complete two tasks. The first one — balancing a ball on a board –they did using their natural arms and hands. The second one — picking up and putting down a bottle –they did using the SRL. They then asked the volunteers to do both the tasks separately and simultaneously.

The results

The results of 20 trials showed that the volunteers were able to complete both tasks successfully using the three limbs about 75 percent of the time. What this means is that they were able to complete two tasks simultaneously that they couldn’t have done if they had been limited to using their natural limbs.

The researchers also think that by operating this brain-machine interface, we have an idea that we may be able to train the brain itself and their future research will try to establish if we might be able to enhance our minds by temporarily enhancing our bodies.

AI creates jobs for real people

Since the idea of robots doing jobs that a human can do there has been a widespread fear of what this might mean for the working population in the more advanced economies, where they are more likely to appear in greater numbers first. However, a new report by PricewaterhouseCooper in the UK has brought hope, because it claims that AI will actually create more jobs and compensate for those lost to automation.

The PwC report actually sticks a number on new employment opportunities. It says AI will deliver 7.2 million new jobs in healthcare, science and education by 2037. Of course, one has to balance this against the 7 million jobs lost to automation, but as PwC points out, AI is the winner and will boost economic growth.

It also estimates that around 20% of jobs in the UK will be automated over the next 20 years and that every economic sector will be affected. PwC said: “AI and related technologies such as robotics, drones and driverless vehicles will replace human workers in some areas, but it will also create many additional jobs as productivity and real incomes rise and new and better products are developed.”

AI can boost number of healthcare jobs

Fears among employees have already been raised by the use of robots like Pepper, made by Japanese firm Softbank Robotics. Pepper is already in use in banks, shops and social care, the latter being a major concern for Britain at the moment, as endless reports indicate the system is failing. However, the good news for all those healthcare and social workers is that PwcC claims that AI could make these two sectors amongst the biggest winners and generate one million new jobs, which is 20% more than the existing number of jobs in the sector.

Manufacturing, transport and logistics may lose out

On the other hand, as more driverless vehicles arrive and factories and warehouses become more automated, this employment sector could see a reduction in job opportunities, perhaps as much as 22%, or 400,000. The report also says clerical tasks in the public sector are likely to be replaced by algorithms while in the defence industry humans will increasingly be replaced by drones and other technologies.

Does AI offer hope post-Brexit?

This report may lift some spirits at a moment in British politics where things have never looked more unstable for the UK economy, if only for the reason that the business of exiting the European Union has raised more questions marks about the future of British trade and industry than it has been able to answer. However, if AI can create new jobs for working people and at least match the loss of jobs to automation, there’s a hope that the fallout from whatever the negotiations bring over the next few months will not hurt as much as many in business fear.