At this point, pretty much everyone is familiar with AI-powered personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Now. They’re making the lives of people everywhere easier and more convenient, adjusting our playlists, reminding us to buy milk, and ordering products for us with simple voice commands. So far, we’re using them in our private lives, but the advances in AI technology mean that we are starting to see more interactive AI assistants in the workplace, too.
Right now, these types of helper bots can essentially be divided into two categories: chatbots, who interact with humans directly, and the software bots that are used to complete automated tasks (RPA). Chatbots can communicate in more-or-less natural-sounding language and are often used to provide low-level customer service support, assist online shoppers, or help with other text-based tasks. RPA bots, on the other hand, are trained to do a specific high-volume, repetitive task, which typically goes on behind the scenes. Depending on their level of sophistication, RPA bots may or may not have artificial intelligence or the ability to learn.
Introducing the intelligent virtual entities of the future
A new generation of intelligent virtual entities (IVE) is on the horizon. These next-gen AI helpers will be able to combine both of these worlds—chatting naturally with their human colleagues, automatically assisting with tasks, providing information, and more. With the right programming, they can understand even complex language, set goals for themselves, plan their work day, and set priorities. And they can be given a unique personality with simulated emotions, so they can even react “emotionally” to user input or to changes in their virtual environment. These abilities open up a whole new range of possibilities for how the IVEs can be used.
Usage case: advanced AI chatbots
At the simplest end of the spectrum, they can serve as advanced AI-powered chatbots. As an example, a busy corporate compliance officer could train an IVE to answer employee’s compliance questions. This would drastically reduce the number of inquiries that the legal department needs to handle, freeing them up for more high-value tasks.
With advanced language abilities, an IVE can understand even complex language such as negation, emojis, slang, and emphasis words and punctuation. Even a tricky sentence like “The business gift was only kind of expensive…” can be interpreted without a problem. With advanced artificial intelligence, it can cope with the twists and turns of natural conversation without losing its “train of thought” and needing to start over. And with its simulated emotions, the IVE can make appropriate small-talk with the employees, leading to an even better user experience.
Usage case: intelligent virtual assistants
But these next-gen IVEs can do more than just talk. With their time-management and planning abilities, they can be trained as virtual assistants who can take on a variety of department-specific tasks. Imagine an IVE who “lives” in the HR software environment. It could be taught to maintain employee records, email forms to employees when required, assist with recruitment tasks, and more. Once it is trained to use the software and given its objectives, the IVE can look at its virtual “to-do” list and prioritize and schedule its own tasks — with no intervention from the HR team.
Let’s say the bot is given the job of updating employee records every 12 months. It would email the employees on schedule, then use natural language processing (NLP) to extract new data from the response and copy it into the employee records. If an employee had recently reported a change in their data, the IVE could intelligently reschedule the check-in—just like a thoughtful human colleague might do. And if the HR team needs the IVE’s help while it is in the middle of all this, it can stop what it was doing, help its colleagues, and then pick up right where it left off.
Usage case: smart manufacturing
This kind of intelligent virtual coworker is ground-breaking enough. But in a smart manufacturing environment, things could be taken a step further: one day in the near future, we might see IVEs providing interactive assistance to human employees via augmented reality. In smart manufacturing, or Industry 4.0 as it is often called, the components in the production facilities are networked and equipped with sensors, so they can be monitored and controlled by machine learning algorithms and AI systems or IVEs. This makes the manufacturing systems highly efficient, but also extremely complex.
In this kind of production environment, a technician might be called to do maintenance even when the problem isn’t visible to the human eye. With the help of an augmented reality (AR) headset and AR-enabled maintenance software (think Pokémon Go, but for manufacturing), the technician could bring his IVE with him to help with the repairs. The IVE could read the data from the sensors, or even “look” at the component using a camera, then use specialized machine learning algorithms to help determine the exact problem. It could then guide the technician through the repair process. This could reduce the level of training needed to work on these types of systems, and also reduce the risk of error.
These are just a few ways that next-generation IVEs can be used. Specialist AI-chatbots can be easily created for any topic, and intelligent virtual assistants can be integrated into nearly any software environment. With the right team of cutting-edge AI experts at your side, your company can even develop customized AI solutions to help with your particular challenges. The possibilities offered by intelligent automation are expanding at break-neck speed, and AI developers like those at Blackzendo are hard at work bringing the future of AI to our present reality.