Can you imagine living with social AI robots that act as your personal assistant on a daily basis? Or even what it would be like to get in a car that can fly and not have to drive at all? This is just a small fraction of what artificial intelligence (AI) has to offer us in the future. The Gartner research company named AI as a top strategic technology trend in 2018 and big tech companies like Google and Baidu have already spent between 20 to 30 billion dollars on this technology in 2016. In a survey done with over 6,000 people led by the Arm tech company, 61% believed artificial intelligence will make the world a better place and the global AI market is expected to be worth 7.35 billion U.S. dollars by the end of this year.
It is pretty impressive to see how big this industry is growing and the future potential the technology is showing. The following chapter will look at the different elements of artificial intelligence, its benefits and challenges, how it is shaping mobile app development and various industries like the education and healthcare sectors and highlighting the many popular apps utilizing the technology
Before we start, don’t forget to catch up on the previous chapters in our Comprehensive Handbook on App Development for the Non-Tech Savvy where we introduced some terminology, explained how to choose between hybrid and native apps, understand the use of connected objects and provided a general glance at virtual reality.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence involves machines created to imitate intelligent behaviour and to work and react like humans based on a set of given algorithms. Using AI is almost like having a mini virtual assistant helping with everyday tasks. For instance, users can ask Apple’s Siri what the weather is like outside or how to convert ounces into grams while cooking a meal. Artificial intelligence features include voice-recognition, predictive messaging, planning and learning capabilities, an understanding of language, it recognizes objects and sounds and possesses problem-solving skills.
It is important to note that there are two types of artificial intelligence. The first is general AI, which is known as sophisticated artificial intelligence. It can handle any kind of generalized task, analyze and understand environments and process data at great speeds. This type of AI comprises several aspects of human intelligence including all of the features mentioned above.
The second type is narrow AI, which is known as a less strong artificial intelligence and only includes some characteristics or features of human intelligence. It can execute these tasks very well but lacks full human intelligence, for instance, an AI that can only do image recognition or can only recommend a playlist on Spotify based on previous interests. This type of AI can only show a certain degree of intelligence because they can handle one particular task.
Along with these two types of artificial intelligence, there are other components involved with the technology including:
- Algorithms: We mentioned before that intelligent machines follow algorithms to work and react with human intelligence. Algorithms are rules that need to be followed to solve a problem. A good algorithm provides the proper solution or answers to the issue quicker than it would for a human to figure it out.
- Machine learning: This is a part of AI that focuses on the skills machines have in being able to receive and learn a set of data on their own. It has the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. As the machines learn more about the information they are processing, they can change and adjust the algorithms and adapt to new data.
- Neural Networks: These are also known as Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). ANNs are algorithms modeled after the biological structure of the human brain so computers are trained to think like humans. The human brain allows us to analyze, categorize and classify patterns and information, this is what neural networks do for computers.
- Deep Learning: This is a subset and an approach to machine learning involving several layers of neural networks. In the human brain, there is the interconnection between many neurons. Just like the brain, ANNs interconnect “neurons” in different layers. Each layer is a new feature to learn, like image recognition for instance.
The Pros and Cons of AI
Artificial intelligence certainly has a lot to offer the world in terms of technological advancements. However, there are still a lot of uncertainties surrounding the technology as it is still relatively new and needs more time to mature. Below we mention some of the benefits and challenges associated with artificial intelligence.
- Engagement. Artificial intelligence is used for app engagement and user retention. App users are always looking for new advancements and personalized experiences. Adding AI components give apps an extra element to stand apart from the many that exist in app stores.
- Enhancing efficiency and lifestyles. It is convenient to have AI take over doing tedious, mindless and boring everyday tasks like answering emails, scheduling meetings and doing data entry. Smart homes, buildings and office spaces using a combination of IoT technology (as mentioned before in our previous chapter on connected objects) and AI can reduce energy usage and enhance security.
- Increasing productivity. A combination of humans and intelligent machines in the workplace increases productivity. People can work better with the help of an AI alongside them which then allows for the evolution of the job market. With AI taking over mindless tasks, it allows businesses to allocate their resources and let employees do more meaningful and productive work.
- Safety. According to the Association For Safe International Travel, 1.3 million people die in car accidents every year. AI can prevent and reduce human mistakes and risks, like driving drunk. In the near future, self-driving cars will be a common occurrence, preventing several car accidents.
- Technological advancements. The existence of artificial intelligence paves the way for more technological creativity and further expansion of new technologies.
- Eliminating risk. AI allows for the exploration in areas of the world that might not be accessible to humans like space, ocean, mining and fuel expeditions. They can endure drastic, risky or dangerous environments that humans cannot.
- Optimal performance. Intelligent machines can continually perform 24 hours a day without getting tired or needing a break.
- Benefiting industries. Artificial intelligence benefits multiple industries such as the automotive, healthcare, finance, law and education sectors. Later on in this post, we have more in-depth advantages describing how these industries are using the technology to their benefit.
- New concept. Artificial intelligence is still a relatively new concept and people remain unsure about the technology. There is a negative connotation associated with AI in that they are rogue robots taking over the world and replacing people in the workforce. It still needs time to mature and gain trust from the public.
- Lacking human touch. AI cannot make decisions based on human feelings and emotion, they can’t distinguish between someone who is hardworking and someone who is not. As much as they imitate human intelligence, there is no human touch to intelligent machines. They lack the ability to make personal connections or bonds with humans. They can only do what they are programmed to do and cannot work outside of their algorithm.
- Costly. It is expensive to implement, manage and maintain an AI project in businesses. Therefore making it not completely accessible and available to everyone.
How AI is Shaping Mobile App Development
From tracking the TV shows you binge watch to help you meditate, there is an app for everything out there. Mobile apps today are beginning to use AI more often to improve user experience and satisfaction and to help engage and retain consumers. Using a combination of AI and mobile apps in businesses will become the norm if they want to remain relevant and keep up with customer needs and enhance their satisfaction. With these modern advancements in technology, users are expecting more in-depth, unique and personalized experience from new apps, such as tracking a consumer’s behaviour and offering personal recommendations based on individual preferences. AI paired with mobile provides users with more incentive to use a business’s products and services.
Consumers want a more valuable experience during each app session and businesses must meet the rising standards of consumers. People rely on apps and AI to solve their problems and assist in simple tasks, this means creating more AI infused apps, also known as smart apps. These are gaining in popularity to help with easy everyday tasks. Here are some examples of combining mobile and AI:
- My Starbuck Barista through the Starbucks mobile app allows you to give your order by either a voice command or messaging a virtual barista using artificial intelligence.
- The Taco Bell app, TacoBot, is a food ordering tool integrated into the Slack messaging system allowing users to order select items from their local Taco Bell menu. TacoBot also uses AI for a natural language and amusing personality when communicating with customers on Slack. It offers personalized menu suggestions, anticipating what you might want to order.
- The iPhone X uses AI for 3D Face ID scanning. This is essentially the “password” to get into your phone.
- As you know, Apple’s Siri, among many things, can send and read messages, make calls while you’re driving, set alarms, timers, reminders, get directions and find songs for you.
- And then of course in Smart homes using devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, they use a combination of Internet of Things technology and artificial intelligence to run the home such as controlling the thermostat, changing the songs on a playlist, answering your questions, scheduling meetings, locking the front doors and turning off lights.
How to Develop an AI Project for your Business: The General Development Phases
After all this talk about combining artificial intelligence with mobile, you might be wondering how it could be possible to develop your own AI project for your business. Below we mention just a few general guidelines to follow when going through the development phases.
- Familiarize yourself with AI. Consult online resources, workshops and courses to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts of AI and how it works. Increase your knowledge of different areas of AI such as machine learning and deep learning. Online platforms like Udacity offer free courses such as Intro to Artificial Intelligence to learn the fundamentals.
- What will AI solve for your business? You need to decide what problem you want the AI to solve. Where do you want to add AI capabilities to your business and existing products and services? How would it add value? Once you pick the problem to be solved, you can focus the AI on it. It is important for the AI to become part of a daily routine, a way to complete daily tasks with ease.
- Bring in experts. Be aware of what you do and don’t understand about AI. This is where bringing AI experts and consultants come into play to create a pilot project. Once the pilot project is created you will be able to elaborate and expand on it to make it more long-term. This is like creating prototypes and figuring how it will work into your business and which features the AI will use.
- Start simple. Integrate small amounts of data in increments into your AI, instead of taking on too much at once. It is important to first collect user feedback and from there you can expand accordingly. Afterwards, you can then figure out the storage requirements for your data and choose a fast, optimized storage.
Industries Using AI
As we mentioned earlier on in the post under the pros of artificial intelligence, the technology benefits multiple industries. Below we outline how 5 industries are using AI to their advantage.
Automotive: Ford has partnered with Amazon to bring Alexa into their cars which adds features like checking the weather, playing audiobooks and adding items to your shopping list. Driverless cars are also on the horizon, Google and Tesla are investing millions into making this a reality. Already, Tesla has assisted driving and fully-automated driving but approval and software validation is needed before switching to driverless mode. Vehicles also have AI safety features like automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist alerts and cruise control.
Healthcare: A big help to the healthcare system is artificial intelligence being able to take care of managing, collecting and storing data. AI can also help choose the correct evidence-based treatment option for a patient by analyzing different clinical notes, reports, expertise and research. An AI can then compare this to the patient’s file and medical condition to come up with a treatment plan. For example, Watson for Oncology was launched by IBM and is an AI that can do just that and read through 25 million published medical papers in one week. IBM also launched Medical Sieve, which is known as a cognitive health assistant for radiology and cardiology. It can read and analyze radiology images and detect any problems.
Law: Ross Intelligence is an AI that provides answers to your legal questions like a research associate. Lawyers are able to ask questions to the AI as if they were speaking to another lawyer. The AI receives answers from previous cases from the database of American Case Law for Federal or State Courts. Ross tracks any updates in the law and sends you notifications of any recent legal updates which pertains to your legal issue or case.
Finance: In banking, AI is helping clients better manage their money and spending habits. Banks like RBC are doing this by launching an AI to analyze and track spending to help customers save money. The goal is to help clients have better control over their finances. Some banks like Wells Fargo also use AI chatbots so customers can discuss everyday banking activities like their account information or resetting their account password.
Education: There are now artificial intelligence teacher’s assistants so that students can ask routine straightforward questions online. AI can also be used to help grade multiple choice or fill in the blank testing. However, the technology is not quite up to grading essays or long-form written test answers. This grading helps give teachers some slight relief and more time to focus on their students and in-class activities.
Popular Apps using AI
After reading up on how artificial intelligence is shaping mobile development and different industries, let’s take a look at some popular apps utilizing this technology.
Cortana: Personal Digital Assistant
According to the team: “Microsoft Cortana is your smart personal assistant. She helps you keep track of your most important stuff, across all your devices. Cortana responds to your voice and has an answer for what you need. Cortana wants to know your favorite things. Tell Cortana your favorite artists or sports teams, and she will give you timely and relevant updates. Cortana helps you stay on top of things, 24 hours a day.”
Hound: Voice Search and Assistant
According to the team: “Hound is the best way to search using your natural voice. What do we mean by natural voice? Instead of talking like a search query “OK Hound… Find Chinese restaurants”, just ask “OK Hound… What are the top rated Chinese restaurants near me?” You’ll be amazed at the lightning-fast response. Want to try something more advanced? Hound can use follow-up questions and commands to filter, sort, or add more information to the original request. Give this a shot: “OK Hound… Find Asian restaurants rated 4 stars or more within walking distance of Times Square and exclude Chinese, Korean, and Thai”
Google Allo: Smart Messaging App
According to the team: “Google Allo is a smart messaging app that helps you say more and do more. Express yourself better with stickers, Smart Reply, and HUGE emojis & text. Allo brings you the Google Assistant.”
ELSA Speak: Speak English Fluently
According to the team: “Learn to speak English doesn’t have to be scary and lonely anymore. With ELSA – your English Language Speech Assistant – you can practice your English speaking skill at any day, anytime and anywhere. Powered by our proprietary and state-of-the-art voice recognition technology, ELSA is the first and the world’s smartest Artificial Intelligence pronunciation coach who will help you have perfect English pronunciation.”
Socratic: Math and Homework Help
According to the team: “You’re about to download the fastest homework helper and math solver around (aka, your new best friend). Take a PHOTO of your homework question or math equation and get INSTANT explanations, videos, and step-by-step help. And yup—it’s 100% free, NO in-app purchases. Supports ALL subjects, including Math (Algebra, Calculus, Statistics, Graphing, etc), Science, Chemistry, History, English, Economics, and more.”
Wysa: AI Life Coach
According to the team: “Research-backed, widely used techniques of CBT, DBT, Yoga and meditation are employed to support you with stress, anxiety, sleep, loss and a whole range of other mental health and wellness needs. Talking to Wysa is empathetic, helpful, and will never judge. Your identity will remain anonymous and your conversations are privacy protected.”
Youper: Emotional Health Assistant
According to the team: “Youper is your AI-powered assistant for better emotional health. It helps you feel your best with quick conversations and tools to take control of your emotional health. It’s already helping thousands of people around the world reduce anxiety, feel more balanced, and live happier.”
It is fascinating to see how quickly modern technology is advancing with driverless cars, virtual assistants and artificial intelligence bots improving medicine. For more on advanced technologies, be sure to watch out for our next and final chapter which will dive into augmented reality and how it’s shaping mobile development. Don’t forget to read our previous chapters in our Comprehensive Handbook on App Development for the Non-Tech Savvy:
Chapter 1: An Introduction to App Development Terminology
Chapter 2: Knowing When to Choose Hybrid or Native Mobile Applications
Chapter 3: Understanding the Use of Connected Objects
Chapter 4: Taking a General Glance at Virtual Reality