Rise of the Digital Assistant and Artificial Intelligence

2016 may very well be the year of the digital assistant. Can disruptive product innovation and AI enhance your digital-self?

Modern life is becoming more and more like the future the Jetsons predicted every year. There are cars that can drive themselves. Incredibly powerful computers in consumers’ pockets in almost every market. And entire ‘smart’ homes that can be controlled and customized from miles away.

Case in point, UX design firms’ physical and digital designers have been working hard to create digital assistants–apps that can understand human commands and carry them out. Yes, artificial intelligence and the company iRobot actually exists. Today, you can ask Google, through natural language, who played He-Man in 1987 (Dolph Lundgreen), have Siri look up the address of Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002), or have Cortana organize your flight information on your next trip. Automagically.

However, as far as these technologies have come, digital product innovation has a ways to go. These digital assistants aren’t perfect, but it won’t be long before they’re close to it. Here are a few things you might be surprised to learn about this blooming AI technology.

It’s not just for the tech obsessed.

That’s right. One-third (33%) of U.S. smartphone owners say that they’ve used a digital assistant in the past month. And as these apps continue to grow more and more sophisticated, it’s only a matter of time before every consumer who knows their way around a smartphone uses them. And even if you can’t imagine yourself downloading one, your favorite apps, platforms and services will all implement the technology to cut costs on staffing customer service. There’s really going to be no avoiding it, and it’s probably for the better. As you use these services, they will become increasingly personalized and understand your likes, dislikes, preferences and anything else you deem necessary. This might sound a little creepy, but as security advances in parallel, a new industry will bloom that puts you in control of your data–when and where it’s used.

Even your friendly neighborhood data monger, Facebook is building a digital assistant.

Facebook M, as it’s dubbed, is only in beta (and only in San Francisco) right now, but 20% of its mentions on social media reflect high anticipation. What’s even more impressive is that that’s four times the level of anticipation around any other digital assistant. As they begin to monetize their Messenger app, which now has 800 million users, we will see this artificial intelligence come in handy in a variety of ways as it becomes a service, and maybe even an eCommerce platform. We’ll be witnessing the dawn of the new search engine. A search engine where you ask for things and receive exactly what you’re looking for. Watch out Google.


With wearable tech on the rise, we’ll see it work its way off our phones.

Granted, like digital assistants, wearables aren’t perfect, but it’s getting there. Just take a look at Amazon Echo, and imagine that on your wrist. And consumers are actually quicker than epxpected to adopt these new technologies. Research shows that the market for wearable technology is growing at a faster than expected pace. More than half (52%) of recent poll participants said that they’re aware of wearable technology devices. Among them, one-third said they’re likely to buy one. Meanwhile 15% — one in six — consumers currently use wearable devices, such as smartwatches and fitness bands, in their daily lives. Of those who use smartwatches, 35% of them use them most frequently for fitness tracking, while 37% of consumers plan on buying one in the next six months. Once digital assistant apps improve, they’ll surely be wed to wearables. Imagine having your own assistant right there on your wrist!

This may very well be the year of the digital assistant. Let us know what you think!