Most of the time, the discussions looking into artificial intelligence (AI) have seemed like they’re in the distant future. AI-powered technology fully automates business processes and displaces large swaths of today’s workforce. You don’t, however, hear all that much about the ways that AI is already making significant changes in the way businesses work.
For years now, technology experts and industry observers all over the world have engaged in a longstanding debate over how artificial intelligence (AI) will change the nature of work.
Part of the reason we don’t hear all of the significant business work uses that AI is doing is because current-generation AI technology hasn’t become as fully autonomous in operation, as some would wish.
AI has been limited to functions carried out in the background, rather than being deployed in customer-facing positions. The notable exception, of course, is the latest surge in the usage of chatbots across a multitude of industries — but it’s a stretch to call all of the bots true artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
Despite the lack of attention, AI is making some significant inroads into industries far and wide, including in several places that you might not expect. Once people see where AI can be used in a heightened way, it will catapult its usage foreward. A few ideas to paint a clearer picture of exactly where AI stands now in its development cycle on the way to becoming omnipresent.
Here’s a look at four current use cases where AI is having a substantial impact right now, including some you’d never have imagined just a few short years ago.
Creating Pleasing new Perfume Scents
One of the main traits that most people ascribe to AI technology is an unflinching application of logic. As a result, creativity isn’t something that many have expected from AI — even when it is purpose-built for creative tasks. That’s why it may come as a surprise to many that AI is making waves in one of the most ancient of creative industries: perfume and fragrance manufacturing.
Perfume and scents of all kinds come from an industry with roots dating back through more than 4,000 years of human history. The ancient ancestry of scent making would cause one to pause their thinking as a place where AI might turn up. Yet where else could so much valuable information be unearthed?
Perfume manufacturer Symrise is now working with IBM research to perfect Philyra, which is an AI that mines historical data and existing perfume formulations to suggest all-new variations that should be pleasing to the human olfactory system.
It has already assisted in the creation of two new scents that are slated to go on sale next year, ushering in a whole new era for one of mankind’s oldest industries.
Bringing Diamond Expertise to Consumers
The perfume and fragrance industry isn’t the only old-line industry that’s already benefiting from AI technology. It’s also happening in the diamond and jewelry industry, which itself has roots dating to the 4th century BCE.
The difference in the diamond industry, however, is that there’s nothing to manufacture, so AI is being put to use to help consumers make smart decisions when considering a purchase.
Today, thanks to Los Angeles based jeweler RockHer and IBM’s Watson AI technology, even a novice can purchase a diamond in complete confidence that they’re getting the best possible deal. The system, named ROSI, lets customers compare diamonds with AI from an available pool of more than 100,000 GIA certified diamonds at a time.
ROSI compares the stones using more than 30 characteristics and returns the one that is the best value for whatever budget the user has specified. After training with world-class gemologists, ROSI now consistently makes even better selections than it’s human counterparts, which provides a rare advantage to consumers in the world’s premier luxury market.
Expediting Insurance Claim Payouts
The global insurance industry is a paper-heavy, resource-intensive one. From sales to actuarial work to claims management, there’s never any shortage of labor to be done. That’s why it should come as no surprise that it’s an industry that’s itching to implement AI solutions in every way currently possible.
One of the more common current applications is in the area of claims management and settlement. AI is a natural fit there because insurance claims are primarily data-reliant decisions, requiring little in the way of human intuition. So far, the results have been more than promising.
Insurance startup Lemonade, for one, has already set a claims settlement record with their AI Jim, which decided on and paid out a claim in under three seconds — with no need for lengthy paperwork submissions by the policyholder.
They’re not the only company getting in on the act, either. Japanese insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance recently turned to an AI solution to calculate payouts, with a system that navigates thousands of pages of medical records and claims submissions to reach appropriate payment amounts for claimants.
Brewing the Perfect Beer
There’s another interesting AI use case that is making use of two of the main strengths of today’s current crop of AI technology. It’s interesting because those strengths are in iterative design and rapid prototyping, but they’re not being used for industrial production, per se.
Instead, they’re being used to craft the world’s tastiest beers. It’s being done by the UK firm IntelligentX, who has developed an AI solution that considers user feedback via Facebook to continually refine it’s brewing recipes.
At the heart of the system is a machine learning algorithm, known as Automated Brewing Intelligence (ABI) that relies on reinforcement learning and a rewards system to hone its skills. The creators of the system aim to let the ABI learn until it is capable of beating human brewers in a major brewing competition.
That will be quite the achievement, given that it will need to win over human judges to accomplish the feat, but that is already not outside the realm of possibility today.
AI is Already Everywhere
These are but a few of the many real-world AI applications that are already driving change today. They’re hardly the only ones, though. AI is also seeing successful deployments in the medical field, in real estate, and even in advertising.
In advertising, AI has recently written the script for an entire automobile commercial. Everywhere you turn, AI is already working its way into industries far and wide, in ways both large and small.
Given the speed with which the technology has been adopted across almost every industry imaginable, it’s fair to say that the debate over how AI technology will change the way we work is officially over.
We’re already seeing the first examples of the answer to that question, and those examples will continue to grow alongside the technology itself. It’s still far too soon to tell when we’ll reach the promised future where AI automates all of our most arduous tasks and takes over the most burdensome jobs from people, but it’s a safe bet that day is coming soon.
Beyond that lies a whole new world controlled by data, with AI helping humanity to solve some of its most long-standing social problems while freeing up humans to do what they do best – learn, think, and create.
It’s probable that the bulk of that change to get us there will occur right in front of our eyes, as it already is in so many ways. The only thing that is certain is that at the end of the day, that’s the real promise of AI technology, and once it becomes a reality we’ll all be much better off than we are today.