Seven places where you'll already encounter AI

By Gary Turner, UK co-founder and MD at Xero.

With artificial intelligence now firmly entrenched in pop culture (from books and films to Alexa and Siri), you might be surprised to learn of the ways you interact with AI without even realising it. Far from Hollywood’s insinuations of sentient robots on a mission to rule the world, AI today is primarily there to assist you, helping with everything from typos in Google to suggesting the nearest pizza place.
Here are the seven most common places you interact with AI without realising:
Your bank
If you’ve ever gotten a notification from your bank about a suspected fraudulent charge, in all likelihood, you’ve interacted with AI. By training software to recognise patterns in purchasing behaviours, banks can delegate what can be a monstrously large task to a computer. Once the software spots an irregularity, an alert can be sent to the customer and the transaction inspected.
Your favourite playlist
Music apps like Spotify and Pandora have become a ubiquitous part of our lives; they’re always there in the background building soundtracks for our day-to-day. Integral to their function, however, is the machine learning system that takes previous feedback on song choices and utilises it to suggest new ones. The more you input, the more it churns out. Not just restricted to music, streaming service Netflix operates its “Because you watched...” selection on the same basis.
Your online shop
It starts with Amazon’s personalised product recommendations, develops into full blown customer service chatbots, and reaches all the way to even your credit card’s processors. The fact is, in all likelihood, the last purchase you made online was assisted in some part by AI. Many online retailers now utilise sophisticated chatbots to handle the majority of their customer service queries, with only particularly difficult or unique cases being escalated to an actual associate.
Your virtual enemy
Some of the most popular video games today use AI to motivate their in-game enemies. First-person shooter titles like Call of Duty and Overwatch built AI into their NPCs to provide a richer gaming experience. Rather than follow a set pattern, these characters alter their behaviour based on your actions leading to unpredictable results - often to the delight of the player and victory for the character.
Your social networks
Facebook’s image recognition AI has gone beyond just helping with the tedious task of tagging your photos; it’s been put to work in the fight against terror. Scanning the social network for terrorist propaganda, it can identify and remove offending content without human intervention.
Your next flight
Although Boeing has only just announced its plans to develop fully-autonomous aircrafts, you might be surprised to learn the role AI already plays as your co-pilot. Currently, planes are able to not only cruise with minimal human supervision, they can also take off and land. In fact, the technology was introduced decades ago and how much of your flight it controls is dependent on where you are flying.
The news you read
In 2016 the Associated Press announced that their sports coverage was expanding to include Minor League Baseball. On its own, this wasn’t particularly groundbreaking. So what’s the catch? They intended on using AI powered software to cover the 10,000 games the league entailed. Similarly, The Washington Post’s implementation of Heliograf was called by Wired the “most sophisticated use of artificial intelligence in journalism to date” after its use in covering the American elections last year. When used for data heavy stories that the AI can plug into, stories can be churned out with minimal human intervention. While it may not be able to deliver hard-hitting interviews, put a few pre-programmed narrative templates to cover any possible eventuality together with a stack of data and before you know it, you’ve got a robot reporter.
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