How AI technology is influencing and changing our lives
by Agnes Chung
Photo Credit: Kevin Bhagat
Imagine! You wake up in the morning. Your mirror reads you the morning news while you brush your teeth. It plays your favourite songs when your shower is on, and tells your microwave to cook your breakfast. All these tasks are made possible with artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines or computer systems programmed to think and act like a human.
AI technology took centre stage at the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month. “We are entering a very new era of innovation. The pace of change is accelerating. Technology already powers almost everything we do,” says CES president and CEO Gary Shapiro.
Some AI powered appliances are already in use in our homes: smart kettles, microwave ovens, washing machines, televisions and refrigerators. Coming to the marketplace are bathroom fixtures such as smart mirrors, toilets and showers. These digitally-connected devices imbued with voice assistants provide convenience at a voice command.
Voice-powered smart speaker
The compact, table-top smart speaker is one of the simplest and most popular AI powered home devices with a voice-enabled virtual assistant. The speaker is constantly listening and ready to respond when called upon, whether it’s answering a question, acting on a command or making a phone call. Some speakers are used to control other smart home devices such as smoke detectors, security systems, thermostats, lights and cooking appliances.
The voice-activated devices aid older adults with limited mobility in their daily chores – for emergency calls, entertainment and can act as a companion.
They can take your grocery order and have the order delivered, remind you of special occasions, where you placed your house keys, when to take your medication or even pay your bills. Well-known brands include Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Home Pod and Microsoft Cortana. Google Home speaker won the 2018 smart IQ test by research-driven venture capital firm, Loop Ventures.
Canada has 5.8 million smart speaker users who make up 18.2 percent of the country’s internet users, according to research provider, eMarketer 2019 forecast.
The smart speaker is continually improving but still has shortcomings. The device is only as good as the information it can access. Some information may be drawn from questionable sources on the internet. Be specific in your question or command.
Security and privacy risks
Shopping experience refined
Retailers are shifting toward online shopping, and mobile shopping with automation and cashier-free stores. Just over a year ago, Amazon opened its first AI-powered grocery store, Amazon Go in Seattle. When you shop at the store, you use your Amazon smartphone app to pay. There is no checkout line.
Using AI, stores can detect your shopping behaviour based on products you purchase, how and when you buy them. The information gathered enables more efficient inventory management and marketing. Data gathered also helps reduce food waste.
Travel made easier
Chatbots, customized search platforms and virtual assistants have helped make travel planning and online booking easy and instant. Google flight leverages the power of AI to predict flight delays and inform you before the airline makes the announcement.
Driverless cars are designed to bring you to your destination without an accident. The vehicle’s AI system perceives its surroundings, processes the visual data and figures out how to prevent collisions. It operates the steering wheel and brake and uses GPS to track the car’s current location and destination.
Artificial intelligence offers us convenience and efficiency. It’s a great aid for older adults living independently. On the flipside, security and privacy remains a great concern as the digital revolution moves forward.