November 5, 2018

The Future of Artificial Intelligence and customer experience. My talk with Professor Pieter Abbeel

Recently, I traveled to UC Berkeley in California to interview AI & Robotics specialist and Belgian native, Pieter Abbeel. Professor Abbeel is the director of the UC Berkeley Robotics Lab, the founder of education-tech startup Gradescope, and advisor to nearly a dozen other startups focused in the Artificial Intelligence space. I started by asking about where the state of AI is right now, and, how can you differentiate the hype from the reality.
 

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Professor Abbeel started out by pointing out that a lot of what AI can do right now is focused around tasks that are originally overseen by humans. This is called “Supervised Learning,” where a specific learned task is taught repeatedly to the algorithm, which then learns to mimic the human decision-making process on it. It’s still a bit beyond the capacity of the tech to extrapolate from this information to broader, “General Intelligence” questions that we associate with human thinking, he says. But this is the really exciting frontier of AI, and where the customer experience of these products will be changed the most.

We all know that new in-home products and services like Alexa have been shaking up the customer experience of the tech and retail world, and AI plays a crucial role in how these machines work. It’s also clearly an objective of the big tech firms to improve the human feel of these products, so I asked Professor Abbeel if he foresees a time when these devices might become a “Friend of the family.” This is possible, he thinks, and is probably coming, but not in the immediate future.

My discussion with Professor Abbeel covered many more topics, including the possibility of purchasing algorithms that make decisions based only on real rational product value, and not perceived “brand value,” the ethical risks involved in AI that can overhear in-home conversations, the possibilities of AI-based personalization in sales and marketing, and what small companies can do to stay on top of developments in the field and benefit themselves from what’s taking place. It is very clear that artificial intelligence will play a big role in the future of customer experience. 

If you want to learn more about this topic, please watch this video.