2016 has been a big year for artificial intelligence with some amazing developments and milestones. AlphaGo (Google DeepMind) defeated Lee Sedol at the game of Go, we saw significant upgrades in self-driving technology and virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant became more popular than ever. So what’s in store for 2017? Here’s just a glimpse of what we have to look forward to.
More advanced, human-like personal assistants
While personal assistants like Amazon Echo have the capacity to do sophisticated web searches, play music and answer questions, the next step in AI is humanization. Friendlier, more casual devices will become a more complementary part of our households, ultimately making us more willing to invite them to be a part of our lives and become a true extension of ourselves. For example, there’s Olly (being showcased at CES 2017). It does many of the same things as other assistants, like connecting to your smart home, weather reports, etc. but what really sets it apart is its personality. With a cute exterior, shaped like a doughnut, Olly can predict behaviors and offer follow up questions related to previous requests. This learning capacity gives it the ability to substantially improve over time, potentially setting a new standard for this type of AI-driven smart home technology.
Democratization of AI technology
Harry Shum, executive VP of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research Group sees a future of AI helping combat humanity’s most pressing issues, explaining in an interview with The Huffington Post, “In 2017 we’ll see increased acceleration in the democratization of AI for every person and every organization. With advances in technology, computers will gain even greater ability to see, hear and understand our world — to make us more productive, to have more fun and also enable greater strides towards solving some of society’s most pressing challenges like fighting disease, ignorance, and poverty.” This kind of democratization of artificial intelligence could mean enormous strides for the industry as a whole. Microsoft claims their digital assistant Cortana has received more than 12 billion search queries and has 133 million active users today, making the system more intelligent about the world and capable of putting complex information across multiple platforms in context.
China’s Investment in AI could result in an industry boom
According to the MIT Technology Review, this could be the year where China makes a big entry into AI and becomes a significant player in the field. The Chinese entrance into the market looks to be promising, with companies like shopping site Baidu and hugely popular messaging app WeChat building up AI divisions. The Chinese government has also committed to investing roughly $15 billion in AI by 2018. With massive amounts of money pouring into the development of AI projects as well as R&D, potentially substantial growth could occur in all areas of the industry.
The distinction between man and machine could blur (in chat anyway)
Some, like Jim McHugh, VP and General Manager at Nvidia see a very big year for AI in 2017, explaining in an interview featured in The Huffington Post: “In 2017 there will be a chatbot that passes the Turing test, exhibiting responses so human-like that an average person wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s human or machine.” With Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon all working on technologies to make interaction between machines and humans more natural, realistic and streamlined, perhaps by the end of the year we won’t be able to easily tell if the person on the other end of a tech support call is a person or a machine.
2017 is the year people demand semi-autonomous vehicles
While it’s hard to predict exactly when we’ll move to fully autonomous vehicles, the gradual process of people migrating to smarter, AI-powered cars is already taking place. With products like Navdy that projects GPS onto a user’s windshield and Tesla’s Autopilot which can help prevent a driver from getting into an accident, this tech is only expected to grow and improve over the course of 2017.