Last month, Google Deepmind’s AlphaGo (a computer program with advanced artificial intelligence) blanked Ke Jie – the world’s top-ranked Go player – in a three-match series. While the 3-0 win was definitely an upset – it wasn’t the biggest surprise though, since AlphaGo had already defeated Lee Sedol in 2016. According to experts, that victory came at least a decade before it was expected to happen – clearly underlining the rapid pace at which artificial intelligence (AI) is growing. In today’s discussion, we will take you through some important trends and insights related to AI for 2017 and beyond:
Greater scalability of natural language generation
NLG, or natural language generation, can be broadly defined as the capacity of a software to simulate the writing style of human beings. It is the natural follow-up of machine learning – and as AI standards are improving, the efficiency levels of NLG are going up too. In addition, NLG solutions are becoming more scalable and customized than ever – with a recent Gartner report evaluating that, 9 out of every 10 business intelligence (BI) platforms will implement NLG by the end of 2019. Usage of NLG is, in fact, already fairly commonplace in several leading Wall Street companies.
Escalating growth in market size
The value of the global AI market stood at $8 billion in 2016. By 2020, that figure would jump by a whopping 487% – going beyond the $47 billion mark. The total investments on artificial intelligence will also show a YoY three-fold increase in 2017 (compared to last year). Application of AI in the enterprise sector is growing rapidly too. In 2018, close to 63% enterprises will become users of AI-based solutions – up from the ~40% figure at present. AI for businesses is growing…and growing fast!
The big data challenge
For machine learning and artificial intelligence to be worthwhile, the concerned software tools need to have regular, uninterrupted access to all types of relevant data. The total volume of big data will inch towards 45 zettabytes by the end of this decade – ensuring that there will be no dearth of collectible information for AI systems in the foreseeable future. Many businesses have started to use open APIs and connected data hubs to tackle the probable problem of data fragmentation, and to ensure seamless data access.
Note: While humans will still decide how information is to be used, AI systems will handle the responsibility of analyzing data, identifying trends and patterns in them, and helping people ‘understand’ data better.
The chatbot revolution
Artificial intelligence is fueling the growth of chatbots – particularly for businesses – in a big way. A survey conducted in 2016 showed that, close to 65% of all millennials opt to communicate with businesses through chatbots (instead of actually calling the businesses or sending emails). AI-chatbots and virtual live agents were also picked by nearly 38% entrepreneurs and startup-owners as technologies that are likely to show exponential growth over the next 4-5 years. Facebook leads the way among chatbot platforms – and these bots are offering diverse, manifold benefits to clients/users.
Note: To know more about the advantages of using chatbots for businesses, click here.
Emergence of customized AI systems and tools
Innovation will be the name of the game in the growth of artificial intelligence over the next half a decade or so. Multiple types of AI-focused systems will be used by individuals – according to the precise requirements of the latter. For instance, AI will power drones, home automation systems and smart cars, be at the core of virtual personal assistants and speakers (Google Home, Amazon Echo), and deliver enhanced robotics solutions for the retail and industrial sectors. Personal and commercial security, finance and health sectors will also witness greater adoption of AI systems in the next few years.
Making virtual reality ‘smarter’
The Facebook Live feature – which started rolling out in early-2016 – has already found widespread favour among users worldwide. Twitter also has its very own live streaming platform. These tools are helping customers check out personalized virtual reality (VR) experiences right on their smartphones (mounted with headsets). The growth of VR and underlying AI capabilities have, in turn, opened up many new and innovative marketing opportunities for brands. A company can, with the help of ‘smart virtual reality’, help a target user check out its products/services easily – without the latter having to visit its outlet. Virtual tools will make shopping more seamless than ever before.
Note: At the end of last year, Fortune Magazine had stated that ‘2017 will be the year of AI’.
Speech recognition for greater interactivity
Voice technology is already key in most personal home automation platforms (e.g., Amazon Echo). Gradually, the importance of speech recognition and ability to carry out voice commands is increasing in the business domain as well. Right from organizing tasks according to relative priorities and managing inboxes, to arranging meetings and generating customized content – the latest AI assistants can do all these and much more. All that people will have to do is ‘speak’ to the assistant – and latter will do the rest. For more information on applications with voice technology, read this post.
AI for app development
The biggest 200 businesses in the world are expected to refine customer service standards and improve their big data analytics tools with the help of ‘intelligent apps’, by 2018. Apart from internal enterprise applications, these ‘intelligent apps’ would include custom software for both the web and the mobile platforms. Recommendation engines with AI capabilities for a wide range of automated tasks are steadily increasing in popularity. Third-party app developers are increasingly trying to incorporate AI features in their products – to enhance the utility of the latter for end-users.
Note: In Gartner’s ‘Top Ten Strategic Technology Trends For 2017’, ‘intelligent apps’ occupy the second spot.
Deep learning and neural networks
AlphaGo’s victory over Ke Jie can very well be hailed as a triumph of reinforcement learning capabilities of an AI program. With the assistance of cutting-edge artificial neural networks, it has become possible to solve even the most complex of problems through artificial intelligence. The standard of ‘deep learning’ – a specialized form of neural network-based machine learning – is expected to go further up between 2017-2020, and would be particularly useful in identifying patterns in huge datasets (along with the required classification tasks). Sentient Technologies and Deep Instinct are two of the several vendors worldwide which offer advanced, AI-powered deep learning platforms.
Impact on the healthcare sector
Investments in AI applications for medical diagnosis and treatment systems hit the high road in 2016 – and the momentum is likely to grow stronger in 2017 and beyond. According to IDC, medical research will receive a big boost with the proliferation of artificial intelligence – with pharmaceutical discovery expected to grow manifold in the next half a decade. On average, the CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of AI in the healthcare industry will be close to 70% – a mighty impressive stat in itself.
Easier implementations of AI
There can be quite a gap between researching a new technology and actually using it. The usage stats of artificial intelligence is a classic example of this. By the start of 2017, nearly 59% of all businesses had started AI-related research work – but only 11% had actually implemented AI systems in their operations. One of the biggest reasons behind this was the fact that handling AI tools required specialized technology skills – and could not be used (at least optimally) by everyone. Things have, however, started to change – with the arrival of customized, feature-rich AI frameworks and tools, like Slackbot, TensorFlow, Wit.ai and Bonsai. Microsoft Azure and Google APIs have started to offer top-notch cloud platform services. As a direct result, users with limited programming knowledge are finding it a lot easier to create ‘smart conversation platforms’ (chatbots) and apps. Obviously, as more developers enter the AI fold, the greater would be the pace of growth of this technology.
Impending arrival of service robots
Robots are no longer obscure sci-fi creations – thanks to the advancements in artificial intelligence. That day is not likely to be too far, when pre-programmed service robots (with deep, on-the-job learning capabilities) will help human employees in workplaces on a regular basis. Right from providing real-time stock updates and pricing information, to suggesting items to buyers and determining discount amounts – a wide range of tasks will be delegated to these robots, which will work on the basis of sophisticated algorithms. Hospitality, retail and healthcare are the sectors that are expected to be benefitted the most by these AI service robots.
Note: AI has also helped businesses maintain a dynamic pricing structure for their products/services. An example of this would be the calculation of Uber’s peak-time ‘surge pricing’.
13. Emergence of AI startups
Given the enormous growth potential of artificial intelligence, the arrival of many new AI-focused startups across the globe is hardly surprising. As per a 2016 Venture Scanner report, there are well over 1500 AI companies (in as many as 73 nations worldwide) – with new companies starting out every quarter. The total funding for these new AI companies is more than $9 billion. Many of these startups are being acquired by the big players in the tech domain – with Apple, Google and Microsoft (also, Facebook) all in the game. More startups will emerge in 2017 and later, and the large tech companies will make more acquisitions.
14. Replacing humans?
Artificial intelligence can create new job opportunities, while it can also replace human workers from certain posts (particularly those that involve routine, repetitive tasks). According to Forrester, AI will displace around 16% of the total workforce in the United States by 2025. Around 9% new job openings will also be created in that period (the net replacement of human workers would be, hence, 7%). There are some concerns about AI gradually eating up the slot of human employees in the professional field – although technology is not expected to render humans ‘entirely dispensable’ anytime soon.
Note: The position of a worker determines whether there are risks of him/her being replaced by AI-powered tools. While a customer service agent can very well be replaced by intelligent chatbots, specialized tech professionals (like robot monitoring experts and data scientists) will work in collaboration with AI…and not be replaced by it.
Use of AI in biometrics systems and for natural language processing (NLP) will continue to increase in the coming years. The predictive capabilities of artificial intelligence will also grow more nuanced. While drones and service robots will become more mainstream, the most important form of AI hardware would be autonomous vehicles – and this market has been estimated by BCG to reach $41 billion by the end of 2025. The overall AI hardware industry will grow at a CAGR of 60%.
While most things seem rosy about the surge in AI technology, there remains a question mark over the security factor, as well as the ethics and moral aspects of using these ‘intelligent systems’. If available in the wrong hands, AI can be exploited to launch serious cyberattacks – putting huge data resources at risk. Experts feel that, such ‘rogue’ or ‘malevolent’ AI practices will also increase, as the technology itself gets more powerful. All security concerns will not be completely ironed out within the next couple of years – but there will be some progress on this front.
There is huge hype about artificial intelligence in general – and the technology has proven its worth for businesses (in boosting productivity) and individual users. As Internet of Things (iOT) continues to grow, AI will soar higher in future.