2017 was undoubtedly the year that artificial intelligence (AI) captured the public imagination and people became aware of the potential for the nascent science. The vast promise to revolutionize areas like healthcare and transportation has been tempered by uncertainty regarding when these developments will be ready for widespread implementation.
With all the futuristic talk and attention-grabbing headlines, many may have missed the fact that in many small ways, AI is already here, shaping some of the mundane things we do on a daily basis.
We may be taking for granted some of the most obvious examples of the progress in AI that have occurred in a device many of us use countless times every day -- our smartphone. There are also features that you may not be aware of that are driven by AI. Read on to find out about 10 of those innovations.
Image source: Statista
1. Predictive text
When typing a text on most smartphones -- including Android and iPhones -- those little prompts we see at the bottom of the screen that provide several suggestions for the next word is known as predictive text. This technology is based in machine learning and is capable of creating custom dictionaries based on your writing style and past conversations. It can even remember if you use slang, and make suggestions accordingly.
2. Route suggestions
Many of us take for granted the mapping feature on almost all smartphones, which will provide a number of potential routes to our destination. These programs not only give directions, but provide real-time traffic information regarding congestion and accidents in our path. These features result from a combination of AI and phone-based crowdsourcing, which aggregates data from many smartphone users to help determine the best directions based on current conditions.
3. Voice assistants
Whether it's the Google Assistant by Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Siri, Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Bixby, or Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Alexa, digital assistants are rapidly becoming part of our daily lives. 46% of U.S. adults say they use voice-control to interact with their phone, according to a recent study by Pew Research. The major reason cited by users is that it allows them to interact with their device without using their hands. These modern marvels are the result of natural language understanding and conversational AI.
4. Voice search
The ability to conduct internet searches uses the same voice recognition technology that enables voice-controlled digital assistants. This technology is not only available on smartphones and tablets, but is also in smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the soon to be released Apple HomePod.
Smartphones are increasingly infused with AI capabilities. Image source: Getty Images.
5. Translation apps
If you've used a "translate" option on Google's internet searches or social media, then you've used an advanced form of AI that's possible because of deep learning. This technology, which is a complex form of pattern recognition, learns to recognize the relationships between words and resulted in great strides in more fluid translations. The tech can now be found in earbuds as well.
As the name implies, voice-to-text is an AI-based speech recognition program that translates the spoken word into written language. This technology is available as transcription capability using the microphone, and then combining it with other popular functions like text, email, taking notes, or setting appointments.
7. Email classification
The ability of email programs to detect spam emails and place them in the junk folder is widely recognized. AI technology is also used to classify emails and put them into different folders using predefined criteria. More recent features resulting from deep learning include identifying those emails that may require a response and providing numerous suggested responses.
8. Automated calendar entries
Another AI-infused feature is designed to streamline the process of scheduling appointments and events by parsing email and automatically adding them (or suggesting the additions) directly to your calendar -- fishing out information regarding flights, appointments, or even restaurant reservations. These apps can also assist in coordinating a meeting by sending multiple suggested times to all the participants until an agreeable time is found.
9. Location-based app suggestions
Smartphones typically know where they are and will make helpful app suggestions based on the user's physical location. Those on a college campus may receive a recommendation to download that school's app. Users walking into a Starbucks store may be prompted to use the coffee shop's app. Those shopping at Costco may be directed to the retailer's app. This function usually requires enabling the location services on your smartphone.
10. Automated photo classification
The image recognition, and more specifically facial recognition available via AI can do some amazing things with the photos on your phone. The most common feature found on these devices, as well as on social media, is to identify the individual in the picture and recommend tagging them. This functionality can also search for specific people, pets, trips, activities, and even holidays and organize them into groups or categories. They can also be searched by where the photo was taken.
The bottom line
Artificial intelligence has quickly permeated modern technology, so much so that many people are unaware that the functions they are using are infused with AI. Expect these technologies to provide even greater utility in the years to come.
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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Alphabet (A shares), Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares), Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.