Artificial intelligence is no longer some term thrown around by programmers, engineers, or hollywood producers. AI is now a major selling point for consumer products, both software and hardware, in how they can automate tasks and make the purchaser’s life that much easier.
As you’ll find, some make good on this promise while others may leave consumers a little disillusioned. Here are a few examples of AI consumer products available today and what they proport to achieve for those looking to incorporate them into their everyday life.
Facebook Messenger Bots
For several years now, Facebook has been advertising the evolution of its Messenger platform from an AI standpoint. What started in early 2015 as simple bot integrations and the M assistant (allowing businesses to maintain a messenger which could – for example – provide users with package tracking information or order an Uber ride from within the chat) evolved a little over a year later into their Bot Platform.
As it stands now, Messenger Bots can perform several tasks for users, like those mentioned above, as well as book flights and travel options, contribute to Spotify and Apple Music playlists, join group conversations to answer questions, and much more. They serve to keep users inside Facebook’s ecosystem while performing tasks they would otherwise have to leave the app or site and spend time to complete. Messenger bots have the capability to perform more arduous AI based tasks, but we have not seen any mass adoption of this yet.
Most Recent Deployment: Facebook Messenger
Further Reading On Facebook Messenger:
Facebook Launches A Bot Platform – The Verge
Facebook Messenger Launches Group Bots and Bot Discovery Tab – Techcrunch
Siri is Apple’s artificial intelligence product built within iOS and later macOS. Described as a digital assistant, Siri was introduced on a grand scale in the fall of 2011, evolving from a standalone app which Apple had purchased from the original creators in 2010. Replacing the iPhone’s previous dictation focused software, Voice Control, Siri let iOS users interact with with their phones in a much more natural way.
Though limited to the phone upon the original release and lacking any true AI capabilities, Siri is now an integral software piece of the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV – allowing users to control most of their telecommunication and entertainment needs strictly through voice commands and AI assisted learning of user behaviour. At Apple’s most recent World Wide Developer’s Conference, Siri’s latest integration was introduced in the Homepod, an always-on speaker geared towards music lovers, but with Siri’s capabilities baked in.
Most Recent Deployment: iOS 10, Homepod
Further Reading On Siri:
iOS 11: What to Expect in Apple’s Next Big Mobile Update – T3
Apple reportedly developing a dedicated AI chip for the iPhone – The Verge
Google Assistant/Google Home
Google Assistant is the latest name for a long parade of bot and AI implementations from Google which capitalizes on their strength in internet search, as well as their knowledge of their own users. Initially launched under the name Google Now in the summer of 2012, Google presented users with a screen with information related to their most searched items (local weather, travel times and traffic reports, sports scores, etc) and items their algorithms determined a user mind find interesting based on their browser history (news articles, consumer item reviews, television recaps).
With the launch of their revamped mobile phone offering, and their home speaker Google Home, Google rebranded this effort as Google Assistant and added more AI infused features related to home automation (controlling lighting, creating playlists and controlling music) and letting users interact with both simultaneously while saying “OK, Google,” within the vicinity of their phones or speakers. Those without the Pixel or Home can can still access Google Assistant by itself or within a group chat by installing Google’s little used chat platform, Allo. The assistant can interact with users intelligently and naturally, performing both simple tasks, and larger endeavours which require contextual learning.
At the most recent Oct 4 launch event, Google revealed a slew of new devices taking advantage of Assistant, including the Pixel 2, the new Pixelbook, Pixel Buds, the Home Mini and Max, and integrated devices from other manufacturers like Bose, Sony, JBL, Onkyo, Anker, and more.
Most Recent Deployment: Google Home, Android Oreo
Further Reading on Google Assistant:
What Is Google Assistant, How Does It Work, and Which Devices Offer It? – Pocket Lint
Everything New You Can Do With Google Home – The Verge
Here’s Why Google’s Assistant Sounds More Realistic Than Ever Before – Fortune
Amazon’s Echo, an internet connected speaker released in the fall of 2014, endeared itself to users with the sheer amount of third party connections or plugins available to its users. By casually interacting with Alexa, Amazon’s own AI intelligent personal assistant, users can check the weather, control their Spotify, Apple Music, or Google accounts or play programming from ESPN, NPR, iHeartRadio and more, updates from over 15 international sporting leagues, ask general questions, order Ubers and an array of takeout food, control lighting and heating within their home, and of course purchase items from Amazon.
The implementation was fully AI from the start, and Amazon’s plan to throw everything at Alexa and see what sticks has worked out. The assistant is also available in their Fire products (TV and tablet) and the Echo is currently the top consumer choice and the ubiquitous answer when you ask the average person about an automated digital home assistant.
Several new products from Amazon and other manufacturers utilize Alexa’s smarts. The Echo Show is larger version of the smart assistant with a built in screen displaying media, news, and weather information for users. The Echo Mini – a low cost, smaller version of the speaker which gives users the option to have Alexa in every room in their home.
Most Recent Deployment: Amazon Echo
Further Reading on Amazon Alexa:
How Amazon’s Echo Went From a Smart Speaker to the Center of Your Home – Business Insider
Leaked Images Reportedly Show Amazon Echo with Touchscreen – Fortune
Amazon Is Winning The Smart Home Speaker Wars By A Huge Margin – CNBC
Named after Master Chief’s companion from the popular XBox game series Halo, Cortana is Microsoft’s catch-up answer to its competitors head start in the AI space. Though development had started as early as 2009, Microsoft didn’t announce Cortana’s debut until early 2015, with initial availability for Windows 10, Windows Mobile offerings, Xbox, iOS, Android and as a bot in their Skype services.
Due to Microsoft’s late entry, Cortana skipped the simple bot phase of its predecessors. The assistant’s capabilities mirror those above with the standout being it’s ability to track those you communicate with at certain times and automatically reminding you if you miss one of these informal sessions. While limited in that it currently only uses Microsoft’s Bing for search, Microsoft that Cortana is slated to offer third party integrations later in 2017
Most Recent Deployment: Windows 10
Further Reading on Microsoft Cortana:
Cortana Just Got Microsoft Back in the Smartphone Game – Wired
Microsoft Cortana Is Finally Playing Catch-Up With Amazon Alexa – CNBC
As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electronics and brains beyond one of the few phones competitive with Apple’s smartphone dominance, it was only a matter of time before Samsung dipped its toes into the AI pool. Samsung’s Bixby is its answer to the AI hype, touting a contextually aware solution that monitors your behaviour and provides answers and solutions before you even know you need them based on your location and past actions.
Or at least it promised. Many users have found the implementation in the Samsung Galaxy 8 and Note 8 lacking, opting to instead turn off the dedicated Bixby button and voice commands as they were accidentally activating it – claiming that performing tasks using Bixby requires more effort and time than performing those tasks themselves. Samsung has hinted at a Bixby reboot coming down the pipe quite soon.
Most Recent Deployment: Samsung Galaxy 8
Further Reading on Bixby:
Life With Bixby Is Equal Parts Futuristic And Frustrating – Engadget
Siri vs. Google Assistant vs. Bixby – CNET
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