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As a kid, the idea of artificial intelligence or AI gave me the creeps, possibly due to the influence of films like Terminator.  The idea of superintelligent machines that could decide we were too much trouble to live and wipe us all out was a spooky one.  Then I got older and the idea of AI seemed to fade away somewhat.  But the recent growth of AI begs the question – are the robots already here?

Voice search

If you have ever used a virtual assistant such as Siri or Cortana to find out something, then you have had first-hand experience of the growth of AI.  The ability to use voice search is only made possible through the use of clever artificial intelligence systems that understand what you are asking and give you their best possible answer.

Voice search is one of the biggest growth areas on the internet and is shown with the popularity of devices such as the Amazon Echo, which uses Alexa as its brain to find answers to your question, hunt out music you want to listen to or tell you the weather for your location.

Using virtual assistants

This kind of technology first started to show up back in 2014 and has grown significantly since then.  One study in the US showed that over half of US teens and around 40% of adults made use of voice search on a daily basis and these figures are only increasing.  The days of talking to your mobile phone and being considered nuts are long gone.

There are also lots of advantages to using voice search rather than having to type in a query.  People ask questions of their smartphone while watching the TV, find out cooking tips while in the kitchen or ask for directions while walking along the street.

Unsurprisingly, the kids are using voice search for almost everything, with nearly half questioned in that survey saying they used a virtual assistant to call someone, 30% using it to find a song they want to play and 20% to find movie times.  13% even used it to find out what the time was!  Adults used the voice search to find directions in some 40% of cases and nearly as much to dictate text messages.

E-commerce chatbots

Another area that the growth of AI has shown itself is in the use of e-commerce chatbots.  In fact, you may have encountered them and not even realised it.  Chatbots offer personalised purchase recommendations when someone visits a website and use natural language processing to talk to a human, like a human.

Chatbots take the buyer’s requests and use machine learning to offer product suggestions based on purchasing trends.  So, if someone asks about a handbag, it might offer the most popular style of handbag the company sells.  Or it might offer the highest rated product based on customer reviews because people like to buy items with good feedback.  It can also recommend coordinating items, so could suggest a nice purse to go with the handbag.

Customer service

The cousin of the e-commerce chatbot is the customer service chatbot and those natural language abilities come in handy here too.  Live chat has become the norm for many businesses but this means having someone on hand all of the time to answer those queries.  The growth of AI means that businesses can now use a chatbot to handle the basic conversions.

For example, conversions such as how much is a service, what’s the company phone number, where are you based, all of these can be answered by the chatbot.  It can help with website navigation to provide information and many people have responded positively to this kind of service.  It can then pass on queries to a real person if they are beyond its abilities (well, for now, anyway).


These are just a few ways that AI is already making its presence felt in our lives.  Added to this are the developments in smart tech or the Internet of Things as it is known.  Within a short time, we will doubtless have smart homes that we can talk to and send messages to via our smartphones.  Let’s just hope we don’t have a falling out with our smart home and find it has locked us out or evicted us!