Digital assistants are also AI-enabled, drawing information from machine learning systems that watch for patterns of behaviour (yours along with the general population) and adjusting answers to better suit your needs and requests.
Today’s assistants are clever. Tomorrow’s will be smart.
We are currently witnessing major system growth through features like “follow on” questions, where Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa will wait a few extra seconds after a question is posed to see if you have you have a follow up question.
A tourist in Paris may ask Amazon Alexa:
“How tall is the Eiffel Tower?”
Alexa answers with “The Eiffel Tower’s height is 1063 feet.”
When the tourist then asks, “When was it built?”
Alexa will say, “The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France was completed in 1889.”
Since Alexa is accessible via the companion app, she remains available wherever you are, ready to assist with that massive AI-powered brain.
And while this is impressive — that almost any question can be answered today — what’s coming next will be positively life changing.
Ushering in a new era of AI-powered experiences with digital agents.
Digital agents are still a few years away, but when they arrive, they will usher in a new era in AI-powered experiences. They will crush our current crop of digital assistants (Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc.) through sheer ability. Being able to look up a fact or open an app will be as inconsequential to future digital agents as blinking your eyes. It’s a small thing, and you pay no attention to it.
Today we can theoretically have a conversation with Amazon Alexa. In the scenario outlined above with the tourist in Paris, they could be forgiven for thanking Alexa after she told them when the Eiffel Tower was built. It’s a natural human trait to thank someone who answers a question. Had that tourist thanked Alexa, it would have followed the thread of that conversation, understood the meaning, and responded with a happy “No problem!” or some other positive response.
To a human, this seems like a natural conversation. You ask a question, get a response, and thank the person responding — except here it’s a machine we’re thanking.
Digital agents will be a much more personal entity to our daily lives. These agents will be tasked with taking action on our behalf, completing tasks we assign them, or seeking out opportunities for us that we ask them to watch for.
Imagine if you wanted a new television. Rather than wait for when you know a big sale will occur, your personal agent will be able to scan the internet constantly, seeking any information on coupons, sales, price drops, or offers related to your new television. Of course, while that may be impressive, alerts for things already exist today.
The big step forward here is that your digital agent will have access to your credit card information and will buy the television automatically when the right parameters are met. If you tell your agent, “any price below X is good,” then it will watch for that criteria. If you add, “free shipping” then that parameter gets added and watched for too.
You may be away on vacation not even thinking about the new television, and your agent will alert you that it found what you wanted, within your parameters, purchased it, and give you an expected delivery date. You will, of course, have full control over the system, so maybe you’ll have it alert you before completing the transaction — but this is really up to you.
What does this mean for businesses?
What will be most concerning to businesses is the layer this will create between themselves and their customers. When a digital agent is given control of your inbox, it’ll start watching what you interact with and connecting the dots. If you continually delete an email, it’ll make sure you don’t see those as frequently, automatically removing them, and mentioning them only infrequently to gauge your interest. Offers will die before the consumer is even aware they came in, with the agent only bringing forward offers it believes matches the consumers interests. This means you better develop a very good relationship with your customers, because AI will be patrolling their inbox and protecting them from anything that looks less than useful.
If you want to get an early look into AI-powered systems that consumers can interact with today, look into Replika, an AI-powered “digital friend.” Or the next time you’re near an Alexa device, say “Alexa, let’s chat…” and explore the system being built that enables extended engagements on threaded topics, lead by Alexa herself.
These systems represent the next engagement frontier that consumers will inhabit. Are you going to be there, too?