The Future of AI and Communication in our Personal Lives
How will Artificial Intelligence impact the way we communicate in our personal lives in the future?
In the context of interpersonal communication, applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and computer science have the potential to disrupt a multitude of existing processes. Disruption does not need to be a negative change; often on hearing the term AI, it is assumed to be referring to robotics straight out of a sci-fi epic, that will eventually take over our jobs and lives. But this is not the case. For optimal functionality, AI is here to enhance existing processes, not replace them. The key is digital transformation involving the combination of both human and artificial intelligence.
Whether we are aware of it or not, most of us will have come into contact with AI technology at some point already. For instance, corporate communications now include the use of AI-based meeting assistants like Eric.ai. Marketing communications also make use of AI to target audiences with higher conversion rates. AI technologies are also present whenever we chat with customer service online. Whilst the increasing number of uses of AI in the business world for workplace communication and in the household for personal use can be a worrying thought for some, it actually demonstrates how seamlessly it can integrate into our lives when put to good use.
Let’s explore the possible applications of AI and communication within our personal lives.
If the terms ‘Alexa, turn on the lights’, have ever featured in your vocabulary, then you are likely living in a ‘smart’ home. What’s this got to do with communication and AI? By interacting with voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Echo and so on, we are in fact communicating with AI, which is arguably an application in itself. Never before would we think of communicating commands at lightbulbs in our home, but AI-based voice assistants have made this a reality. They’re also increasingly accessible, making it easier to adopt for every household.
Smart homes are set to have a profound impact within healthcare, in that they empower those who are physically impaired, cognitively diverse or managing chronic conditions. As well as using voice assistants to carry out tasks such as adjusting a thermostat or turning down a light - tasks which can be extremely challenging and painful for some - they have also been known to provide companionship to those who are lonely or depressed; something which unfortunately many people living with the aforementioned conditions often feel. Ellen Ward from Elbridge AI discussed the empowerment of smart homes in this context as part of Digital Northampton’s #TechAtTen last month, and you can watch the video here.
These are just some of a multitude of applications of AI-based voice assistants; as well as communicating with them, we also use them to communicate with others. For example, if you’ve ever used Siri to send a text message or an email, the natural language processing (NLP) technology within the AI assistant is what enables the communication to take place.
Have you ever noticed when typing an email or a text message that your device will often suggest words to use next? Even as I’m typing, the word processor I’m using is trying to complete my sentences for me. Well, this is all thanks to AI and improvements in its critical thinking capabilities.
The future of our messaging will likely be further impacted by the smart suggestions offered to us by the variety of devices we use to communicate. A report of a study published in ‘Computers in Human Behaviour’ found that when conversing in ‘difficult’ scenarios, i.e. confrontational/unpleasant conversations, participants were more likely to trust the suggestions of artificially intelligent systems - the ‘smart’ suggestions’ - than people they were talking to. It was suggested that using NLP the system was able to identify the route the conversation was taking, by identifying a negative tone, and then suggest conflict-resolution strategies.
Language barriers will soon be a thing of the past as machine translation becomes more advanced than ever. AI will soon be able to translate any language to your preference in real-time, getting over the challenges of manual translation and delays in response time. With the increasing efficiency of artificial intelligence, people will be able to talk to anyone without communication problems.
AI and Empathetic Technology
We’ve discussed some written and verbal interactions with AI technology, so what about physical; how can AI work with body language? It involves the combination of AI and machine learning, and is usually referred to as ‘empathetic technology’.
"Empathetic technology is defined as: “technology that is using our internal state to decide how it will respond and make decisions.” (Poppy Crum: Source)
In an article introducing the concept, it is explained that empathetic technology makes use of AI and machine learning to better understand humans’ internal state. Rather than being responsive to commands and actions, it can better predict our feelings and needs, and proactively address them.
It is thought that AI and empathetic technology could greatly improve healthcare diagnostics, because the technology can be gather data over longer periods of time than one would usually spend with their doctor or healthcare professional. This means that better insights can be gathered as to how our body is functioning and behaving. Furthermore, AI and empathetic technology can provide a sense of autonomy for elder generations, whereby the technology can gather signals as to whether someone is feeling unwell or having cognitive issues (rather than sensors simply detecting if someone has had a fall) and provide information back to caregivers.
You can learn more about the use of AI and empathetic technology here.
It’s clear to see that AI technology is very much here to stay, and will be making profound impacts on the way we communicate in the future. As is always important to keep in mind when discussing AI and communication applications, the technology works best with humans, and will not sufficiently replace the need for human interaction, particularly within the context of communication.
There are huge benefits to be reaped by incorporating AI into our personal lives, where existing communication processes can be further enhanced and streamlined.