As we go through the daily grind, we hardly notice how deeply entrenched our lives are in various forms of technology. For a majority of us, it has become second nature and we don’t bat an eye anymore when say, you call on Siri to ask for the weather today or share a special moment instantly on Instagram Stories. Technology has rapidly evolved in the last decade or so, enriching our lives for the better.
Today we take a look at some key emerging technologies that are transforming the way we live, communicate and grow.
- Chatbots — Chatbots offer a new way for brands to interact with customers. Brands will find it hard to drive their cause home if they have to ask users to search for their app, take the time to download it, create an account and finally interact with it. With people spending 90% of their time on email, their favorite social network, and messaging applications, it’s no wonder communication apps have gone from single-use to having a multipurpose feature. Initially, Chatbots were employed to augment brands’ customer service efforts but recent advancements in the field have made language processing more natural and intellectual, thus opening the doors for Chatbots as avenues to shop, process fund transfer, plan an entire trip’s itinerary, and even distribute content.
- Virtual Assistants — Advancements in artificial intelligence have paved the way as well for virtual assistants to jump from being behind our smartphone screens and into our own homes. Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo or Google Home — whichever one of these you have — house the more popular virtual assistants; calling on Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant to help you out with queries, entertainment, documentation, and shopping. With virtual assistants, smarter homes aren’t too far away as one could imagine easily unlocking your house, or turning appliances on or off with a simple command to the device. However, even more advanced virtual assistants have come forward to the fray — and aren’t just around to take your orders anymore. Computerworld.com offers an overview on Amy, Shae and Samsung’s Otto and what they bring to the table. Amy is quite good with setting your meetings, and interacts seamlessly and believably with whoever you’re communicating with. Shae on the other hand is all about helping you get healthier. It does this by gathering information from a lot of data points, including the users’ own profile and putting into account some environmental factors and constantly pushes information and advice to your proactively (instead of waiting for your command and attention). Lastly, Samsung’s Otto can pretty much do what other virtual assistants can. However, device-wise Otto is an HD security camera whose feed can be streamed directly to your phone or computer. Its “head” can turn around, swivel and pivot to give you the view you want. Also, its facial recognition feature will come in handy when personalizing its experience to whichever user it encounters.
- Voice Technology — This emerging technology is somewhat related to the previous point. Text to Speech, Speech to Text and Natural Language Understanding have increasingly helped break down language barriers through real-time voice translation, translating entire websites’ content and providing automatic translations to social media posts made in one’s native tongue. Various forms of content can be read aloud by programs — from a text message to navigation directions — in providing a hands-free digital experience for the user. This technological advancement helps those with disabilities to easily navigate through digital content or hear alerts when necessary. Of course, as mentioned in the previous point voice technology has been the main gateway to activating and interacting with virtual assistants. Users simply call out the activation command, and instruct these devices to either play music, jot down a reminder or shop an item for them.
- Image Recognition — If you’re thinking Google’s reverse image search, we believe you’re just at the tip of the iceberg. Image recognition has plenty of applications nowadays including facial recognition. Apple may have launched its iPhone X with an exclusive facial recognition lock-unlock feature, but the technology is even better applied in a campaign by Expedia and the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The campaign, titled “Discover Your Aloha”, utilized a website that featured footage of many activities that can be experienced in Hawaii. With the user’s consent, their computer’s web camera scan user’s facial reactions to determine which footage evoked positive emotion. After which, users are given offers for discounted trips and vacation packages. The power of today’s image recognition is able to not just detect faces or emotion, but also differentiate what is human from what are simply patterns, locations and objects. This is quite important in the field of automatic and connected cars; the technology assisting it in its navigation and avoid accidents overall.
- Virtual and Augmented Reality — Recently a majority of brands and users are getting the hang of how these two work. Virtual Reality is not only limited to games, but is rich with opportunity to present locations in fine detail or create an avenue for product testing and give users an experience of the actual product without it physically being there. Virtual reality also offers the space for brands to virtually create customized products requested by customers before they can be officially and physically created; this makes for faster production time and lesser time for a product on display to await a sale. Augmented Reality on the other hand takes advantage of what is physically present and adds layers of interest and interaction to it. Once again, a lot of its application is also found in games. More importantly however, AR has found its place in the retail scene — enhancing the shopping experience with virtual mirrors and dressing rooms that help customers picture out how an outfit looks on them (without the hassle of changing clothes), while proximity-targeting notifies a shopper of something nearby that might interest them. AR applications have also been found on various social media platforms in the form of animated filters and interactions, all the more bringing a sense of play into the social media experience.
Machine learning was born from the idea that machines can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions without having to be programmed to specifically make such. Iteration, as part of the Machine Learning experience, is important as with each new data coming in, machines are able to independently adapt in consideration of it and are able to make predictions. Machine Learning as a model isn’t entirely new, but recent developments in technology — increasingly large amounts of data, affordable processing power, inexpensive storage technologies and facilities — have made it possible for it to analyze huge chunks of complex data and be able to deliver faster, sharply accurate results in real time.
Machine Learning is important because it drives a majority of the emerging technology we immerse ourselves in today. Among machine learning’s application are: user behavior analytics (detecting suspicious behavior and therefore generate the right amount of security or protection from, say, fraud), linguistics (most notably in processing voice-executed commands and communication), target marketing, product recommendations, email spam and malware filtering, self-driving, connected automobiles, search results refinement and tons more. Advances in machine learning have made it possible to automate tasks which we thought for a long time would be impossible or impractical to be handed over to a machine.
This opens the possibilities of how might be able to organize work and tasks, as some maybe left to machines for automation and simply augment the work being carried out by actual human beings. It is the sort of AI technology that can greatly assist individuals or organizations in uncovering connections and opportunities for profit and growth, or at the same time be warned against possible risks and protect themselves from it. In the near future, we can only hope that programs and devices not only process information extremely quicker, but that they do so more naturally, more near-human as they’ve learned to adapt to even our kind of daily grind.