AI is Giving Us Back What We Value Most – Time

If I asked you what the most perishable thing in our world was, what would your answer be? What if I then told you it was something you could not buy?

Time is said to be the most valuable thing we can spend. It dictates our daily lives and if we have a chance to save it, we take it. At Microsoft we are using AI to empower every person and every organisation to do more and make the most of their time. For example, you’re choosing to read this instead of perhaps watching a video online, or checking social media. Why? Because you’re hoping to get more value out of these couple of hundred words, than one of the other tasks. No pressure, then…

We all have access to the exact same amount of time in a day. However, at Microsoft we believe people want to get as much out of each day as possible and have spent years developing AI capabilities to allow people to do more with the time they have. We are enabling this technology to look at the world in the same way humans do, using machine learning to develop solutions so that technology can mimic our complex way of thinking and take on some of our less enthralling, obligatory tasks, while freeing up time for the things that are important to us.

Microsoft’s speech recognition software has now reached ‘human parity’

Today, Microsoft Cognitive Services can see, listen, articulate, understand and interpret a user’s needs in the digital sphere, reducing the need for more manually driven processes. Microsoft’s speech recognition software has now reached ‘human parity’, for example. We, as people, are now better understood, and the service we receive is more relevant and valuable. The back and forth of information gathering is long gone – brands can now get to know their customers in minutes, even seconds. And, when these abilities are embedded in the development of bots that converse and respond to users in real-time, driven by AI, and therefore connected seamlessly to online entities (devices, places and things), true efficiency and time saving really kicks in.

An example of a Microsoft created bot is XiaoIce. Developed a couple of years ago, Microsoft Xiaoice is an AI chatbot based on Bing search technology and big data. She has a balanced IQ and EQ which has meant she is able to form strong emotional connections with human beings, checking in on your mood, your family, even your pets. What we learned from XiaoIce is that people want their tech to be approachable and to adjust to us, as their users.

This type of communications platform can be seen as a tactic for brands who want to engage with their customers in a more personal, relevant and timely way.

We often talk about ‘right message, right time’ –and using bots driven by AI, the opportunity is ripe.

Chatbots represent efficient digital marketing: a brand need only build one.

Because a chatbot can be called upon from multiple services and platforms, they are incredibly efficient, making it easier for the user to find what they need wherever they choose to be online – within conversations for example; across Messenger, Skype or Slack. This also means branded bots are not just a smarter way to connect and interact with audiences, but they represent efficient digital marketing: a brand need only build one.

One example of a traditionally low-tech business adopting chatbots to grow their business is The Purple Café in Bellvue, Washington. When searching for the café on Bing, a chatbot function automatically appears, immediately available to answer questions from potential customers. For example, a potential customer might ask to see the restaurant menu, find out where they can park their car, or even how to make a reservation online. The answer is immediately delivered to them via the chatbot, without having to take the time to visit the website, download the menu PDF and then navigate to the reservations page.

Similarly, Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, uses AI to act like a personal assistant, helping us with daily tasks and reminding us of things we may miss. Cortana knows where its user lives and works, so can send a notification if a train is canceled or if the user might need to leave earlier than normal. This is a core element empowering us as humans to use our time in the most optimal and efficient manner.

It has been predicted that as soon as next year, roughly 20 percent of all business content will come from A.I (Andrew Tonner, The Motley Fool). And of these numerous organisations or individuals who have adopted or incorporated AI in some way, they have all done so with a clear aim – to save time.

For brands, the benefits are evident: increased customer engagement, driven by personalised experiences, resulting in robust relationships. For us as consumers, we are able to access information faster, complete tasks more efficiently and feel more valued by the brand or organisation we are engaging with.

The benefits of AI, digital assistants, voice and other cognitive services are accessible for big and small businesses – and being implemented now. The enterprises of today need to seriously consider AI, to save customers, money and most importantly, time.

Adrian Cutler

Agency Director, Global at Bing Ads

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