Emotional intelligence is the future of artificial intelligence: Fjord

The most successful artificial intelligence (AI) systems will be those comprising an emotional intelligence almost indistinguishable from human-to-human interaction, according to Bronwyn van der Merwe, group director at Fjord Australia and New Zealand — Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation arm.

While the concept of AI is not new, in 2017 van der Merwe expects emotional intelligence to emerge as the driving force behind what she called the next generation in AI, as humans will be drawn to human-like interaction.

Speaking with ZDNet, van der Merwe explained that building on the first phase of AI technology, emotional intelligence enhances AI’s ability to understand emotional input, and continually adapt to and learn from information to provide human-like responses in real time.

Currently, 52 percent of consumers globally interact via AI-powered live chats or mobile apps on a monthly basis, Fjord reported, with 62 percent claiming that they are comfortable with an AI-powered assistant responding to their query.

With consumer appetite for AI expected to continue to grow at a rapid pace, van der Merwe predicts emotional intelligence will be the critical differentiator separating the great from the good in AI products, especially given that by 2020 she expects the average person to have more conversations with chat bots than with human staff.

“People are probably going to be more drawn into engaging with chat bots and AI that has personality,” she said. “We’re seeing this already … it’s a companion and it’s something people can engage with.”

Van der Merwe explained that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are hiring comedians and script writers in a bid to harness the human-like aspect of AI by building personality into their technologies.

With audience engagement somewhat guaranteed out of necessity when it comes to employing AI technology, van der Merwe said companies will have to focus very heavily on transparency and trust, and tell customers when they start speaking with a machine, be careful not to blur the lines.

“Right now, my recommendation to our clients is that we need to experiment with this … and we need to get data to validate our response,” she said.

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