AI was one of the most common tech buzzwords of 2018, cropping up everywhere from search giants to satellite navigation. Although the definition – artificial computer intelligence – might seem precise, in practise it covers a range of applications based around machine learning algorithms. These allow software to find patterns in vast collections of data, and choose appropriate results correctly.

Voice Controlled Computing

One of the most common iterations of AI has been the use of voice-activated and controlled software. As is often the case, the social barriers to using voice controlled computing is a larger barrier to its uptake than the technology behind it – consider the odd looks people would give receive when using hands-free phones until recently. As ever, over time people will become more accustomed to this sort of technology, and as that happens, and the practical benefits become more obvious, uptake will accelerate until it becomes commonplace.

Inviting AI into our homes

Several of the largest tech giants have been pushing for this sort of AI technology to enter the home in everyday use. Companies like Amazon and Google have released home-use devices to great success, combining voice control with the services they already provide, and adding functionality via other networked devices. Having seeded the market and awakened consumers to the possibilities these devices bring, it seems likely that 2019 will see this market expand, as other companies large and small find ways to capitalise on this growing sector.

Answering back

As well as understanding what we’re saying, AI has helped software developers to create products that can answer us back in a natural-seeming way. This has expressed itself in various ways – from the aforementioned domestic hubs being able to make calls and reply to most queries in kind, to more widespread application of convincing chatbots and other service systems.

While the chatbot revolution might not make as many headlines as talking robots will, in everyday terms they could well have a more profound impact. Mobile computing has created a huge resurgence in text communication across all demographics; with careful AI development, chatbots are now able to respond, judge, and activate services that for many years would only have been entrusted to human operators. Consider one of the most common applications – subscription service helplines. With a fairly limited, but still large number of possible responses and situations, and a very clear set of guidelines for offers, upgrades, and cancellations, software with all the information on tap from the outset may well be able to provide a better, and more consistent, customer service than a person who needs to refer to databases and hierarchy for information.

Acceptance of AI

Perhaps the most significant development in AI has been its wide acceptance. Artificial intelligence is no longer a phrase that brings to mind killer robots and the distant future; the understanding that it’s a system that helps drive your car, find your nearest pizza takeaway, or translate a foreign phrase is now widespread. That acceptance will be the key driver for future AI developments, and is unlikely to change.