Tech

How Many Robots Do You Talk to Every Day?

You'll be talking to more of them in the next five years.
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Remember J.A.R.V.I.S.? In the early Marvel movies the disembodied voice served as Tony Stark’s robotic assistant, helping Iron Man on his missions and acting as his personal butler slash housekeeper. Stark talks to J.A.R.V.I.S. as if it were any other regular person, giving it commands and even asking it for advice.

Turns out, you don’t need to be as brilliant—or as fictional—as Tony Stark to have your own J.A.R.V.I.S. In fact, you’re probably already talking to some form of J.A.R.V.I.S. now, minus the holographic screens and the British accent.

“There are a lot of AI (artificial intelligence)-enabled applications that we are already using,” said Sean Agapito, market analyst of International Data Corp. (IDC) Philippines. “There are already Facebook chatbots in place.”

If you’ve ever messaged a business page on Messenger to ask for information, order a product, or file a complaint, you’re already talking to a simplified version of J.A.R.V.I.S. As of last year, there were already over 300,000 active chatbots on Facebook Messenger, and other messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp also have a bunch of business-enabled chatbots within their platforms.

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According to IDC Philippines, these chatbots will not only continue to grow in number, but will soon replace the mobile apps we’re familiar with today.

“By 2024, AI-enabled user interfaces and process automation will replace one-third of today’s screen-based apps. And by 2022, 30 percent [of companies] will use conversational speech technology for customer engagement,” said Agapito.

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That sounds like a bunch of confusing jargon, but what IDC is highlighting are the changes to how humans interact with machines. Thanks to advancements in technology, talking to chatbots and other AI-enabled systems will just be like talking to another person a la Tony Stark and J.A.R.V.I.S.

And they're already finding use in some of the country’s largest companies. Agapito pointed to TRACI, short for Talent Resourcing Automated Communication and Information, which serves as Meralco’s virtual assistant for job applications. Instead of having to go through several applications and inquiries about job openings, Meralco rolled out TRACI to make the process more efficient and streamlined for both the company and the applicants.

“Over the next couple of years, we expect more use cases such as [TRACI] to surface and become more commonplace in the market,” said Agapito.

The rise of AI-enabled user interfaces was one of IDC’s top 10 predictions for the country’s information technology sector, which enumerates how IDC believes the industry will evolve in the next few years. Called IDC FutureScapes, other predictions include the monetization of big data within companies, the spread of blockchain technology to other industries, and other similar topics involving digital transformation.

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Lorenzo Kyle Subido
Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer for Esquire Philippines.
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