Beyond Siri: What AI means for the future of mobile devices and search

There is a resounding need and desire for data management and analysis to help make our lives more productive and enjoyable. This demand, paired with rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), will encourage the wide-spread adoption of virtual assistants and intelligent automation services. The AI that is emerging will enable us to manage data overload by offering decision automation, reasoning capabilities, reduction of information complexity, deeper personalization and forging these capabilities together with a multitude of sensory inputs from our mobile devices.
Mobile innovation: New interfaces and capabilities
AI will have a huge impact on the mobile user experience in the future. Online services will be increasingly responsible for managing more and more aspects of our daily lives — from alerting important events, advising us on new products to buy, handling our personal information flow to monitoring our health, and more. This new generation of smart services will take into consideration our personal contexts and will provide services for the individual end-user, rather than applying simple, often statistics-based, customer segmentation models widely adopted in e-business today.
In practice this implies a clear move away from typing letters on small mobile keyboards, to the emerging use of touch screens, voice activation, gestures, sensory and other visual and audio interfaces, all of which mimic more human-like ways of communicating. Service providers will begin adopting this multi-modal interface approach to allow for several input and output interfaces to interact with the users, while also keeping in mind that some interfaces won’t be effective for particular services.
But offering an extended user interface is clearly not enough to increase value substantially. We are in need of solutions that can handle the information complexity of modern lives. The simplistic behavioral targeting approaches that, for example, keep giving recommendations of children’s books just because you bought a few gifts for your children, is frustrating at best. More advanced user interaction makes it possible to express yourself more richly and much more specifically. This means that mobile solutions and apps will have to handle both complex user formulated directives combined with the problem of reducing complexity coming from a huge flow of new information.
It doesn’t stop there. There will be a massive change to the structure of the Internet as people depend more upon smart virtual assistants to manage much of their online presence. The focus is shifting from simple delivery of unstructured data –texts, sound files, images, videos, forum posts and short messages, etc. –to a more comprehensive data analysis and a complimentary set of advanced functions. Therefore, development innovation will primarily focus on various approaches to the smart extraction of usable information in unstructured data –and AI will play a central role in teaching our machines how to understand the data they are processing in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Mass consumer adoption: Smart apps and beyond
For the consumer, a fleet of branded virtual assistants targeted towards virtual shopping, pharmacy, health, exercise, entertainment, messaging, and news are on the way. This is actually a natural extension of the app trends and capabilities we see today — apps will now start embedding a more intelligent service, or ‘smart layer’ in order to bring more value to end-users. We already see this emerging in apps offering deep news personalization (such as Zite). These apps will remember your personal profile and detailed settings, and will learn your behavior, only becoming smarter over time.
Mobile virtual assistants will help with tasks such as booking, buying, alerting a user when something of interest comes up, or reminding a user of important tasks to complete. These assistants will become increasingly contextually aware by learning a user’s environment and behavior to filter the information flow to them. Most importantly, AI powered virtual assistants can handle a lot more complexity. This is essential as it does not matter how good your natural language or gesture interface is unless you can do something useful with the information, such as provide relevant restaurant recommendations or give meaningful health advice.
Many virtual assistants and apps will have their own high precision, subject oriented, search capabilities. Therefore, it’s possible that there will be a redistribution of the search industry as we know it. Perhaps instead of the search market being dominated by 2 key players, multiple specialized search engines powered by AI will enter the market. This will radically change advertising and empower a wide range of brands to offer specialized search and decision power.
The future of search
On the horizon of advanced AI, the user will no longer be involved in the majority of search. Our context and behaviors will be measured on lowest possible wireless network protocol levels, or tracked directly on-device. Everything will be captured and analyzed in near real-time, and advanced services will automatically predict and optimize much of our information from live streams of data. Search will mostly become machine-to-machine interaction, distributed among a huge number of highly specialized AI-services.
With enough structured data and interactions, AI will gradually shift towards a broader form of machine intelligence, not limited by the mirroring of human sensory systems and cognition. As a result, there will be amazing acceleration in new types of value building mobile services, spanning over all our daily activities.