The Future of Communication Between Humans and Machines

Everybody has an opinion about artificial intelligence (AI), but few know exactly what AI can and can’t do. And as new technology enters the market, we all have mixed feelings. There’s the customer experience potential of the new tech, but also an unsettling feeling that it will change our lives in ways we can’t control. The most extreme fears are that AI will take control and become more intelligent than humans.

A more natural customer experience

Today, many business-to-consumer interactions have been made easier by AI. Yet, how we use AI is still not optimal. For example, when we speak to another human, we use our natural language voice with our own body language. But we still need to use computer keyboards to chat remotely. It’s not natural. Enabling technology in the most natural way makes it an easy evolution or transition with faster acceptance.

With the development of AI and natural language processing and generation technology, the devices we use today may be an unnecessary interface to engaging with technology. Our devices store personalized information about us. What if every device could be our personal device, but only as long as we are in close proximity? Imagine that you check into a hotel room and the television on the wall or a touch screen on the desk starts behaving as your personal device. It brings up your favorite content, your contacts and so on. Imagine if all devices worked this way so that your identity “travels” between those devices. Technologically, this is already possible. The question is, who will be the first to enable access to such shared devices based on simple human presence?

A new type of interface drives customer experience

Here’s another perspective on it. What if there were a new type of interface between a computer and you that uses only natural voice, gesture and mimicking? The technology may understand not only what you are saying, but also how you are feeling and be capable of simulating emotions during the conversation. This concept touches on our fear of AI: Will computers of the future read our minds? I don’t think so, but they will definitely have a much better understanding of us. Next generation AI will be able to capture, understand and even simulate emotions like empathy. That’s why the communication between humans and machines will be more natural.

The current state of natural language and AI

Today, we already use speech-to-text technology when speaking to computers. We can capture what humans say and translate that to text, which computers can understand. Then there’s the opposite process: The computer can process a text and express that in natural voice. Why not eliminate this unnecessary translation and have direct conversations with machines by voice only? Man-to-machine communication becomes the same as man-to-man.

Alexa and Echo already work without keyboard and display, and next-generation computers might not need these peripherals, either. Any display around you could show your visual content and any computer nearby could understand your voice, recognize your gestures and temporarily behave as your personal device.

AI and the rebirth of the voice channel

In the past, there has been a lot of speculation that digital communication channels such as email, chat, and text, will kill the voice channel. Industry pundits continue to speculate that contact center interaction volumes will drop. Yet the calls keep coming because people still want the human touch, especially for escalations and personalized conversations.

In fact, in the future, voice may prevail. There will be more direct communication over multiple channels with providers, such as contact center agents. But the channels themselves will be much less important. In the future, expect AI to capture most customer contacts and invite humans to the conversation if needed. The communication channel will be automatically selected based on purpose and effectiveness. Consumers won’t need to think about how to communicate with companies; they can do it the same way as they do with family and friends. And companies can identify all customers in the same way, simply by recognizing voices.

Orchestrated routing and natural language

The challenge is how to orchestrate the millions of parallel conversations between humans and machines across all types of interactions in this channel-less and hyper-personalized world. Every customer should be automatically identified, known, understood and individually managed to receive the best service in the shortest possible time. Clearly, there’s no way to do this without an AI using endless computing power.

Machine Learning and Predictive AI can seamlessly blend the human resources with software agents to provide superior customer experience, based on perfectly orchestrated natural conversations.  This new way of communication can revolutionize how customers engage with businesses. It’s not a stretch to suggest that with this advanced routing, most communications eventually will be between software agents and humans.

The easiest, most convenient and most natural way to communicate is natural language. Real-time language translation capabilities are rapidly advancing. In the near future, the mother tongue of the customer will be irrelevant. Software agents will speak all human languages fluently, and for human-to-human conversation, real-time language translators can be equipped to communicate between different language speakers. That’s why I believe voice will remain relevant and even more popular in the future.

Fear of the AI unknown: Turn frenemy to friend

Fear of the unknown is not new. It always increases with new discoveries. For example, with the invention of the steam engine, some people thought humans would be killed by extreme physical pressure if we traveled over 80 miles per hour on a track. Instead, it opened a new dimension in innovation and travel. Fear of the unknown is about control. We controlled the steam engine, as we can control any other big machines—never allowing them to escalate operations to the point of no return. Likewise, AI is all about the control of thinking and supervision. AI must think for us and not on behalf of us.

Consider how today’s high-speed trains operate. They use a “passive control mechanism,” a system which allows the engine to run only as long as the driver continuously delivers a combination of “RUN” signals to the machine. If the “RUN” command is interrupted for any reason, the standard behavior of the engine is to stop immediately.

Look back at history and you’ll see that machines we can control always make our lives easier. Effectively deploy and control AI, and it will serve us well.

Join me for a webinar, Emerging Technologies that May Change the Course of HistoryI’ll share research on where AI technology is headed, and how to navigate and capitalize on the best ideas for your business.