IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 16 May 2016

AI and adoption

At Retail Assist, we understand the importance of always having one eye on technology, in order to stay ahead of the curve. We’ve been researching the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to bring you our opinion on consumer adoption of AI.


In the news recently, we’ve noticed that the makers of Apple’s iconic digital assistant, Siri, Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, have released a new AI platform, Viv. The key difference between their “next generation” tool and other AI platforms is that it isn’t constrained by service provider, i.e. Siri for Apple, Cortana for Windows. Being cross channel, it can “speak” in a device agnostic manner to vendors and third party suppliers in order to provide the most relevant information based on the request, i.e. to purchase relevant goods at the cheapest price.

When shown at a demo in New York, the audience was impressed by the complexity of questions Viv could answer. Viv responded to sophisticated questions such as: “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5PM the day after tomorrow?”, and was able to execute more personal queries that demonstrated a more intimate knowledge of its user, for example “Send Adam 20 bucks”. You can see Viv in action here:

With any new tech development, we should have the end user in mind – so, what about AI adoption?

Last year, in a product statistics release, Apple revealed that Siri receives 1bn requests a week: a big number, but one that might not stack up so well when we consider that Apple has just over 1bn active devices in operation. In addition, what percentage of those users really rely on AI/digital assistance technology daily? When you look at the simpler commands performed by Siri, it appears to be a non-complex, one-way conversation.


Something else to consider here is that if AI like Viv is to be adopted, cognition is the key. Viv seems to come close when handling the complexities of each query, many of which don’t follow the same patterns. But, we are still largely a nation of individuals wanting to share the experience with someone that understands us – who can respond well to frustration in our intonation, rather than an automated customer service model. This is a concept understood by Google, who are apparently teaching their own AI tool by feeding it a diet of romance novels to make its bots more conversational.

Hopefully it will be more successful than Microsoft’s embarrassing public Twitter storm caused by its AI tool trial, Tay, which “learned” offensive and racist language from its audience of online users. One thing to learn from Tay, is that whilst technology is neutral, people are not, which makes cognitive computing a very difficult balance to strike.

A Samantha rather than a Siri?

To round off this piece with a reference to Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her. In a not-so-far-off future vision, a lonely male writer (Joaquin Phoenix), develops an emotional relationship with his new operating system, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). The film explores the evolving nature—and the risks—of AI intimacy in the modern world, and addresses the issue that AI can replace, but not replicate, real human interaction. Not yet, anyway…

One Response

  1. Seth Waite says:

    AI and adoption is a great look at a rapidly growing conversation about new technology trends. I am finding in the AI conversation that voice is still not as widely useful as everyone constantly believes it to be. Many people still don’t like using voice options on their mobile (and especially desktop) devices. Dictation (like text messages) is growing but artificial assistants aren’t catching on as quickly as expected while tech shops seem excited to be building more and more of them.

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