Artificial intelligence was once the stuff of science fiction. The idea that you could build a brain was so preposterous that few people, especially in business, took it seriously. Scientists, like Isaac Asimov and Marvin Minsky, developed the groundwork for artificial intelligence decades ago, but their efforts proved fruitless - computers just weren’t powerful enough to carry out their computations.
Fast-forward to the early 2010s, and the situation changed dramatically. At the start of the present decade, top AI researchers, some in academia but many in business, began talking seriously about a digital technology called “machine learning.” The idea was that computers could learn to do things that weren’t directly programmed, but rather infer the right actions through trial and error. Based on the work of early pioneers, AI experts at Google and the Chinese search giant Baidu started experimenting with the algorithms that could sort through images and categorize them; something machines had traditionally been terrible at doing.
The new approach started to yield results nobody expected. Image recognition software could tell the difference between cats and dogs, and all of a sudden, computers could perceive in a way that was strikingly similar to humans.
Since then, AI has made a big difference in the business world. Based on similar principles, it’s found many applications, and these are expanding all the time.
Collaborative Robots In The Food Industry
Machine learning has made it possible for robots to move in such a way that they no longer require specific programming. Collaborative robots, or cobots, can now work alongside people safely and detect their presence. They can also perform tasks requiring a high degree of dexterity, thanks to similar trial and error methods to those used in image recognition software. The food industry, in particular, is using collaborative robots to increase worker efficiency, providing an extra pair of hands-on production lines for things like making sandwiches.
Companies want their representatives to reflect their company ethos, mission, and personality, and interact with customers in a way that is appropriate. The problem with many regular chatbots is that they are generic, and don’t give customers a sense that they are talking to any one particular company. (The same might be said of call center staff). But with advances in AI, this kind of fine-tuning may be just around the corner. Already a company called MESH is looking at ways to create branded bots which faithfully reflect the firm’s philosophy. So far they’re working with voice assistants, like Siri and Alexa, to deliver brand personality.
Deloitte is a large professional services company, providing everything from accounting to leadership consulting. As a result, they need a robust system to analyze contracts. Until recently, they relied on people. But now AI has gotten to the point where it can scan documents and return relevant information in real time. This cuts down on the time employees spend searching for information and provides them with the details they need to analyze the agreements they have with their customers properly.