Time to Accept Artificial Intelligence as Part of the Family?

Millions of households are welcoming these new voice-first home assistant devices into and as part of their families -- even with all the uncertainties and unintended consequences.
Time to Accept Artificial Intelligence as Part of the Family?
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By now, many of us have heard about or might even own one of the popular, sleek multi-functional voice-first devices, such as the Amazon Echo, also known as "Alexa", the name used when waking the device to give a verbal command.

Quick joke: How do you make Alexa laugh?
The answer: You can’t, because you can’t push her buttons.

This joke is terrible for many reasons, not the least of which is that I ended up anthropomorphized a digital device, which may be one of the biggest issues with this devices.

Related: There's No Doubt That Amazon Alexa Is the Next Big Thing

First, according to Voice Labs Voice Report for 2017, 6.5 million voice-first devices -- defined as an always-on piece of hardware utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) with primarily a voice interface, both for input and output -- were shipped in 2016. In 2017, that number is estimated to grow to 24.5 million devices shipped, thanks in large part to its appearance during the Super Bowl commercials.

These numbers are extraordinary, especially when you consider that the Echo was only introduced in 2014, followed only by by its smaller brethren, the Echo Dot and Google Home in 2016.

While Amazon and Google (and Siri on our iPhones) have an early lead in this sector, there are sure to be new entrants. In fact, the entire sector will be interesting to watch as a lesson in super-niche focused products and services, which is turning out to be a smart business move.

Related: Artificial Intelligence Now Has a Voice, But Security Challenges Loom

According to Voice Labs, these AI assistants are already highly specialized and will become more so in 2017. Here are predictions for the strategies of just the big players:

  • Google is focusing on mining the web and providing intelligent responses to general knowledge questions.
  • Amazon is focusing on commerce -- for obvious reasons.
  • Google and Microsoft will excel at email, contacts and calendar management.
  • Microsoft has a huge opportunity to excel at gaming.
  • Google and Amazon are going to battle for hands-free TV and home automation.
  • Apple is betting on AirPods for on-the-go use cases and should have an Apple TV voice strategy.
  • Samsung will also get into mix at some point in 2017, but it is unclear the strategy they will pursue.
  • All players will battle to become the go to controller of the Internet of things.

Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business

The crazy thing is that even with the potential for 24 million devices to be in our homes soon, the potential impact still remains remarkably unclear. Adding to this uncertainty are the following unintended consequences resulting from the rapid adoption in our lives.

Related: How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot For Free Without Coding

One thing is for certain, the popularity of these devices is certain to grow. As for me, I am still a little wary of being an early adopter of this technology. I may be convinced, however, if the AI software can be taught to laugh at my bad jokes.

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