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A large part of my job is the role of trusted advisor, my clients come to me for advice on how to implement technology in their businesses and safeguard themselves from change. Technology is a passion, so I don’t find it a chore to keep up to date with progress, but the speed of that progress is increasingly difficult to keep up with. The field of AI is rapidly emerging from the domain of academics and geeks – like personal computing in the early 80’s or the internet in the 90’s it will soon explode into our lives, it’s effects will be pervasive and within a decade it will be difficult to imagine how we lived without it.

One of my roles in this coming revolution will be to help my clients identify the opportunities and threats posed by AI. I don’t believe that a sudden technological singularity will change the world overnight, wiping out jobs and destroying traditional industries, rather the shift will be gradual as the technology evolves and new applications are realised. The technology giants do have a massive advantage, but any innovative company could become the leader in their field – enormous opportunities exist. We can choose to be a Blockbuster video or a Netflix.

One area that is fascinating me now is artificial customer engagement. We can already use natural language bots to communicate with your customers on your website or on chat engines. We can for instance use a chat bot to naturally engage candidates on a recruitment website and return jobs that match their requirements, we could even program it to let them register with the site in a friendly and easy to use way.

The biggest weakness of human to human text communication is that it’s so easy to misunderstand a person’s intent without the visual cues of facial expressions and the tone of words and sentences. This remains true in communications with AI. But an AI bot that could use and read facial expressions and could recognise emotion in your voice and express emotion in it’s voice would transform the way in which you communicate with your customers.

Imagine having a thousand customer service agents that have access to your entire database of company knowledge, instantly adopt best practices and are a full and always on representation of your brand.

One such company making this a reality is New Zealand based Soul Machines. Their approach to creating “incredibly life-like, emotionally responsive Digital Humans with personality and character” is the best I’ve seen so far.

This technology isn’t quite ready for the mainstream yet, but for now I’m amusing myself with how successful a complaints department staffed by a baby might be!

What do you think - would interacting with a bot that is almost human and can read your expressions be creepy or empowering? Would you trust it to represent your company? 

About the author

Ashley Lansdowne Goodman

Ashley has worked in the tech industry since the late 1990's. He's obsessed with new technology and it's implications for small and medium sized businesses.

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