AI Is Making Us More Human

Artificial intelligence is all around us, augmenting and enhancing many of the experiences we have as people and consumers. Let’s take a closer look at how AI is changing the way we live, shop, manage finances, and experience life, as well as what we can expect in the future.

In Healthcare: More self-aware

Minding and monitoring our health is very much in focus these days. We have much deeper visibility into how we sleep (Apple Watch), how much we exercise (Fitbit), our weight loss and gain (FitGenie), and even how we can prevent and manage disease (Lark). What most people don’t realize is that AI and machine-learning technology is working behind the scenes in many of the apps and services we use to track our health, such as providing more accurate diagnoses and even introducing a new wave of individualized medical treatment.

As the biological “data” we have about ourselves continues to grow (through the uptake of wearable devices, chatbot-powered apps, and more), its analysis will fall on the shoulders of AI, which will, in turn, make smart recommendations leading to lifestyle changes intended to make us healthier and live happier lives.

In Retail: More confident shoppers

There was a time when we needed to go into brick-and-mortar stores to truly feel confident in our purchases. How could we buy the right outfit or shoes without trying them on? Online channels existed, but we couldn’t really predict the size and fit unless we were very familiar with a favorite brand. Now, AI, coupled with augmented reality (AR), is helping us buy items without having to see them in person.

AR mixed with AI allows us to juxtapose 3D visualizations on top of the real world (think: Snapchat filters). Computer vision and machine learning (both subsets of AI) determine things like depth, and spatial computing ensures more realistic views for us shoppers. Think about virtually trying on a pair of sunglasses. You might want to move your head to view multiple angles, and it’s AI in the background that ensures the sunglasses stay on your face as you turn your head.

A real-world example of AI and AR in action is the Wayfair online home store app, which allows users to view what a couch or other piece of furniture might look like in a space. In 2020 we will see a lot more of this, and without our having to measure our rooms or input dimensions. AI will make sure that couch is the right size, making us feel confident in our online purchases.

In Financial Services: More trust and smarter money management

Have you ever traveled out of state and tried to make a big purchase from your bank card only to be blocked from buying by your financial institution? This fraud protection is powered by AI. Anomaly detection (a subset of AI) is working behind the scenes to help your financial partners identify fraudulent transactions and transfers. Banks are using AI to score our transactions by risk level. For us, this means we can rest assured that our financial institutions are committed to keeping our money safe.

We’re also seeing some early examples of AI-powered financial advisers through chatbots (think Bank of America’s “Erica”), which send customers on-demand notifications, provide credit report updates, and assist with simple transactions. In the future, AI-fueled personalized recommendations will empower us to make smarter financial decisions. Some early examples of this already exist, such as the anomaly detection example above. But the time is coming when banks will be going even further to help us manage our money and make smarter, more sound personal finance decisions.

Travel and entertainment: Custom-made experiences

AI is already shaping the content experiences of more than 158 million global Netflix subscribers by recommending related and complementary programming based on previous viewing. AI is also playing a role in the development of both AR and virtual reality games, movies, and other content experiences.

The Netflix model of content consumption is also shaping what we expect in other parts of our lives, such as travel. Travel bots (think digital concierge) are becoming a sticky idea, especially in hotels and resorts, where guests can get 24/7 concierge service, for example, via an in-app chatbot that can answer questions, place orders for room service, and recommend services. The travel bot concept, however, is still in its early years, mostly reacting to customer-expressed needs. In the future, I see it becoming more of a trusted travel adviser, using AI’s predictive powers to know our needs before you even realize them yourself.

In the end, the power of AI — ironically — is really about making us all more human. It’ll take away the many aspects of our work and home lives that seem mundane and worrisome. Instead, we’ll have more time to think, experience, feel, empathize, create, and become ever more self-aware.

In fact, it’s already happening. And now we know.