Now that Siri and Alexa have moved from guest to family member at home, the next frontier for artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants is the office. KPMG analyst Traci Gusher thinks that these assistants will soon move out of the basic "What's the weather going to be?" phase to take on more work-specific tasks. In the next stage of artificial intelligence (AI) development, humans will be able to use virtual assistants as notetakers. These assistants will need coaching along the way just like any junior employee. Gusher predicts the technology will reach the ideal state of "virtual keepers of wisdom" by 2030.
You've seen them spread throughout the consumer world in the form of Amazon Echo, Google Home, and others. Now, voice-activated digital assistants are coming to your office. The announcement of Alexa for Business late last year and the voice assistant takeover we saw at CES last month show us that to power today's evolving business setting, we need to propel the workplace with trainable digital assistant technologies that are smart, predictive, and able to learn. These devices leverage the capabilities of natural language processing (NLP), predictive analytics, and machine learning to offer recommendations about next steps in unique situations, provide insights, and guide complex workflows -- all in a cognitive and conversational user experience.
The technology we use at home is slowly converging with the enterprise environment. The innovation taking place within the virtual assistant (VA) market -- and its potential to create an entirely new workplace reality -- is particularly exciting to see. Artificial intelligence-powered, voice-controlled assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana are already commonplace in many homes. This popularity is building pressure to integrate VA functionality into enterprise technology, as well, which could significantly reconfigure and enhance the employee experience. By 2021, Gartner, Inc. predicts that "25 percent of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant (VEA) on a daily basis. This will be up from less than 2 percent in 2019."*
In the early days of the Information Age, people who wanted to interact with a computer had to learn to speak its language, like Fortran or BASIC. Today's devices are learning to speak our language -- not perfectly, but well enough to conduct a Google search, schedule an appointment or order a pizza. And smart devices seem to get smarter every day. Does that mean bots with artificial intelligence (AI) will soon replace virtual assistants -- human beings located offsite who provide executive support? We're not there yet, if a recent survey by Creative Strategies is any indication.
Recently, we have seen artificial intelligence triumph over humans in Jeopardy and chess. And there is a growing presence of virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri that populate our computers, phones, and homes. It's only a matter of time before A.I.-powered assistants play a significant role in the workplace, experts say. In fact, the global intelligent virtual assistant market is forecast to be worth 5.1 billion by 2022, up from – 600 million in 2014, according to Transparency Market Research. What are the potential benefits and challenges of giving smart virtual assistants a home in the enterprise?