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"AI, AI...oh!"

We think Old McDonald - and his farm-hands for that matter - might have surprised us with many uses for artificial intelligence (AI)...people have been dreaming up various applications for decades. But the reality of what it’s accomplishing is changing both our present and future.


Be honest. Who hasn’t used a chatbot to troubleshoot a problem or request information? The web now seems to be littered with the things.

"Sorry, but what's a chatbot?" you ask?!Where have you been for the past few years!?!

Chatbots are just an AI-assisted application for answering common pre-defined questions, used most frequently for self-service customer support. They're designed to optimise efficiency while satisfying customer needs more quickly. At least that's the theory...

Until fairly recently, chatbots have usually offered a text-based interface. However, voice-activated versions and conversational commerce add a level of intimacy and personalisation to interactions, comprehending entire exchanges, tones, and languages. According to Gartner, by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. That's a statistic not to be sneezed at, but in fairness is yet to be proved. I for one, however, will not be betting against this prediction...the writing seems largely on the wall. Voice interfaces are now even serving as pseudo therapists, as in the way of Replika, an AI “friend” that listens to you.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is driving the charge, putting voice control in the spotlight as one of the best innovations in the immediate future. NLP is enabled by cognitive computing, technology that processes language the way humans do - making sense out of something that is naturally unstructured.

Cognitive Computing is the next step.

While digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana have pre-programmed responses to certain commands, cognitive computing will interpret sentiment and emotion as well as anomalies in speech that aren’t fixed to specific responses. Essentially, adding the human touch - that true understanding - to otherwise sterile, clinical, automated interaction.

Cognitive computing will also translate to text, where it can interpret written word as well as spoken word. These software robots can study large amounts of irregular data and understand it the way a human would - in a fraction of the time.

The future will rely on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive computing; of that there is little doubt. But as with any new and emerging technologies, it's more about how these are rolled out and applied in the real world that will ultimately dictate the scale of their success.