How is Artificial Intelligence transforming our lives?

I have been thinking so much lately on how I should be explaining Artificial intelligence (AI) in the simplest way possible.

Have you watched the movie ‘Iron-Man’? If yes, what struck you the most about this film, besides Tony Stark?

For me, it’s ‘Jarvis’ (Do you know that J.A.R.V.I.S is an abbreviation of Just A Rather Very Intelligent System). Yes, the AI, a highly advanced computerized AI.

It was so fascinating to watch it on a huge screen, how it responds according to the user’s thoughts, connected to global information networks and mainly uses holograms as his main interface to communicate with Tony and give him access to anything he needs.

Technology moves at breakneck speed, and we now have more power in our pockets than what we had back then. AI has been a fascinating concept and I personally think we are finally getting close to making AI a reality.

This is a type of ‘deep learning’ that allows machines to process information for themselves on a very sophisticated level, allowing them to perform complex functions like facial recognition. Big data is speeding up the AI development process, and we are already witnessing integration of AI technology in our everyday lives.

We can keep talking about so many AI and deep learning integrated systems that companies are marketing these days. Amazon Go, for instance, it’s a combination of advanced Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Deep Learning Algos, Sensor Fusion and AI – It’s called ‘Just Walkout Technology.’

Similarly, Google is another company which is investing a lot into AI. It did not stop there, but, it is taking one step ahead and making its technology open source. The company wants individuals and small companies around the world to also get on board. It wants to wield influence in the wider AI ecosystem and to do so, it has put together an impressive stack of machine learning tools — from software to servers — that allows you to build an AI product from the ground up without ever leaving the Google playpen.

In this article, I’ll be focusing on a very small part of the AI, i.e., smart speakers and my experience using them.

Smart speakers can do a number of different things, including answer questions, control smart home devices, set alarms, play music, and more. Each speaker has different strengths and weaknesses, but companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple are working hard to fill the gaps and make these speakers even smarter.

Perhaps the best thing about having a smart speaker is that it frees up your hands and gets you away from your smartphone. Things like –
• What the temperature is before you run out of the door
• Recipe instructions
• Set timers when you are busy
• Play you soothing music after a long day

If you have smart home devices, you can control them with your voice instead of having to get out of bed or off the couch to turn your lights on and off.

I own both Amazon Echo and Google Home, in fact, I have been using them for a while now.

To start with, they have become a part of my daily life now. I use them for various activities throughout the day, right from ‘catching up on the news around the globe to getting quick tips on how to handle the situation with my wife when I mess up something that she specifically asked me not to.’

Let me start with Amazon Echo.

Amazon Echo will always have that first mover advantage. Echo was the first smart speaker that was introduced into the market.

Amazon’s Echo was the very first smart speaker on the scene with AI, and it still dominates the field. Echo is a device designed around your voice, it responds to the command ‘Alexa’ and lets you ask her a question and it answers.

Over a period of time, there are so many skills that are made available in the market making it grow smarter and stronger as a device. However, the support, for now, is limited to only a few countries.
Put simply, I can ask Alexa to –
• Book an Uber
• Set a timer and alarms
• Random questions about history
• Order Pizza
• Create Shopping list
• Play Songs or stream music
• Traffic information
• Entertainment
• Climate update… and much more.

Above all, you can teach Alexa to learn your accent. Echo is at a stage where you can control your entire house with it – home automation.

Top 4 things I like about Amazon Echo –
• Ability to book cabs
• Ability to play audio books
• Order and track Amazon purchases
• Ability to create my shopping list and to-do list

Things Echo lacks –
• Digital entertainment
• Speakers are loud, Google home beats it with quality of the audio
• Support for other countries besides the ones already available

The best smart speaker hands down is the Amazon Echo with its 15,000+ skills, ability to buy items on Amazon and support for dozens of smart home devices.

Time for Google Home
Google, even though not the first to the market, I should admit that they have done their homework thoroughly enough. They covered all the flaws that Echo has, to stand up in the competition. Google Home has a very strong entry point, i.e., with Google Assistant built in, it integrates with Google Calendar, Maps, and Chromecast, so it gives you personalized answers.

Say the word, and the Home can also control your smart home gadgets or send music and videos to your TV and speakers

Top 4 things I like about Google Home –
• Ability to cast a video to TV using ChromeCast
• Amazing Speakers
• Entertainment element (has many more features compared to Echo)
• Personalized search results

Things Google Home lacks –
• The Home’s integrations with other Google services don’t allow you to do a lot of things
• You can’t create reminders or make a to-do list.
• Support for other countries besides the ones already available

Google Home offers more personalized virtual assistance than the Echo, and it’s better at controlling your digital entertainment with stellar audio quality

One more thing
Yes, you guessed it right, Apple’s HomePod it is. However, it’s too soon to comment considering we know only a little about it and, that too, whatever was announced in WWDC’17.

One thing for sure, at least, Apple isn’t positioning it as an AI based Smart Speaker but a high-end music device. Apple is laser focusing its home pitch on music, rather than as ‘an assistant’ which is smart and plays to strengths.