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The evolution of the smartphone into a digital voice assistant and ‘friend’

The chase to pursue and lead Artificial Intelligence Capability

We have seen the signs. Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have been investing in Artificial Intelligence companies who are developing technologies related to machine learning. Google, Amazon and Apple had also developed voice activated search function (Apple – Siri, Amazon – Alexa). Facebook is now investing in Bots that would be integrated in its Messenger so that businesses could communicate directly with customers via messenger.

In Google’s annual Founder’s Letter 2016, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai shared about Google’s investment in the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence. He quoted how ‘…DeepMind’s AlphaGo took on Lee Sedol, a legendary Go master, becoming the first program to beat a professional at the most complex game mankind ever devised.’

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Deep Mind is a company that Google bought and is at the leading edge of AI Research. And the game GO is a game so complex that it would be impossible to programme all known steps of the game into a computer as it has millions of variations. Instead, the best way to play Go is akin to developing a human like intuition based on repeated play. This video does a better job of explaining to readers how complex the game of GO is and why DeepMind succeeded where other AI’s failed. And the secret is programming its learning ability the way a human mind learns:

And the truth is, DeepMind beat the previous projection on when an AI is estimated to be able to beat a human at GO by a decade.

The future of AI and the Digital Assistant

So with all these being said, we could safely say that many of the leading Tech Companies are investing heavily in AI. In the future, the handphone that we keep looking at would become a smart digital assistant that we could have conversations with. No more visiting websites and thinking which services to take.

This advent is due to the realisation that there is only so much app that people download and use on a daily basis. In fact its being said that most individuals have 3-5 basic apps that they refer to daily. A safe bet would be your facebook/twitter/instagram app, your email app, your instant messaging app, your camera app, your calendar app (5 categories of app). Lets face it, we are all so busy that we dont have time to download the latest app. I used to do it in the past. Test a lot of new apps. But as life gets busier, I only download an app that increases my productivity and that comes recommended by some of my fav tech website such as theverge.com techmeme.com or recommended by Reddit community.

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So one of the creators of Siri (apple voice activated assistant) have developed a new kind of digital voice assistant that can do complex tasks that lends credence to a future where all we need to do is talk to an AI to get things done (services, products). The technology is called Viv and this video will help you get up to speed about what VIV can do. Its very fascinating how a lot can be done in the future by just talking to this AI.

This of course reminds me of the movie Her starring Scarlette Johansson as the voice of the AI Samantha that Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly fell in love with. If you have not watched this movie yet, I highly recommend it. Here is the trailer:

Its very interesting to see the building blocks of this future slowly developing in our time. It also made me wonder what if in the future the moment that a child is born, they will also be given an AI in the cloud. This AI will be their constant companion in their ear perhaps. A voice that speaks to them. This AI will become their teacher, their best friend, their play companion, their advisor, etc. The intelligent entity that knows them from the day that they were born to the day that we die. How would that feel having an AI as a friend always. This aside, will AI also help with elderly loneliness as they go into their senior year and all their children are too busy with their own family. Its quite an interesting future to imagine. It reminds me of some of Iain M Banks SF books from The Culture Series which was a world build by Iain to describe a post scarcity world where both AI and humans lives side by side.

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There is no doubt in my mind that we are living in the future. But the only question is this future one where technology helps us to fix fundamental problems such as poverty, hunger, violence, education. Whether it liberates us and also makes such technology accessible to the common people. Well if you are alive now, then that means you will be in the front row seats as these technology unfolds. Namaste.