Since the late John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence (AI) in 1955, it has taken on several different forms, many of which we are likely to have encountered, or even used, without even thinking or knowing about it. Driven by the mobility and massive computing power we have with our smart devices, along with the sheer scale and impact of cloud computing and big data, AI is about to go mainstream.
The recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was dominated by two things - wearable technology and AI assisted gadgets. From toothbrushes telling us how to polish our teeth, to smart beds suggesting how to sleep, to video games that adapt to our style of play this year saw AI come of age from a consumer perspective.
Most people know of or use Google Now and Siri. But do people even consider these to be AI in the first place? There is, in fact, a huge amount of AI going on behind the scenes which is helping to determine the results or answers we're asking for. Yet we have only just started to scratch the surface of what can actually be accomplished. For consumers that means everyday lifestyle assistance, whilst for businesses it means savings for the bottom line.
However, with CES so clearly demonstrating the potential AI applications could have on our lives, perhaps this is now the thin end of the wedge where we will see a flurry of AI-powered services weaving their way into our lives. We're still a century away from AI replicating the functions of a human brain but once the ball starts rolling, we could see it begin to snowball and the abilities and capabilities of what can be performed by AI increase exponentially.
If our beds can now intelligently tell us how to sleep, then why not timesheets that automatically tell us when we are working too much on a particular job, or too little on another. Could we even have ovens that suggest what we should put inside them based on what they know about our preferences and diet?
It might be some way off, but smart devices seem to be the natural route to market for AI products if we are to accept them into our lives. With this as the basis, you can see how information from our everyday lives, like location, weather, daily activities, work schedule, the kids' schedule, favourite places to eat, could all be inputted into a central hub to make intelligent recommendations. If you are running late for a meeting, for example, you can sometimes forget what the ripple effect could be down the line. Wouldn't it be great if Mrs Smith, who may be the appointment after the one you are running later for, was notified straight away? We don't always think that methodically, but AI could.
Obviously AI is not completely faultless just yet. Inevitably, there are one or two ghosts in the machine that crop up from time to time - hopefully not when we are brushing our teeth! The key for the adoption of this technology in the coming years will be having an acceptance of this. Though the good thing about AI is that the more it is used, the more sophisticated it will become. The toughest question we may have to ask in the future is just how do we fill all the spare time we're going to get back?