By: Vivian Wang
Artificial intelligence. As sophisticated as artificial intelligence may sound, artificial intelligence can be found in several everyday activities, ranging from online shopping to web searching. Artificial intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence in computers to mimic human capabilities like speech recognition, decision-making, and processing of languages. This concept was first introduced in 1956 by John McCarthy, with Alan Turing expanding on McCarthy’s work only five years later. Chris Smith from the University of Washington explains how many breakthroughs of technology are oftentimes too subtle for most people to see but these technological advancements still have monumental impact on today’s society.
As the email notification pops up at the top of one’s phone, the user is pleasantly surprised with automatically-generated, suggested responses such as “Thank you!”, “That sounds great, I’ll see you tomorrow!”, or “How about we reschedule to next week?”. With the touch of a finger, users can instantly reply to the email using Gmail’s suggested replies. The creation of Gmail’s smart replies relies heavily on artificial intelligence as Gmail has to process the email and understand the language used by the sender.
Artificial intelligence makes another appearance on Google’s search engine with predictive searching features. As the user begins to type “funny YouTube videos…”, Google instantly surprises the user with suggestions such as “funny YouTube videos of parrots” or “funny YouTube videos to procrastinate on homework”. It may seem paranormal to Google users when seeing such tailored suggestions, but the predictive searches are based on Google’s data that Google constantly collects about the user. A casual search of “funny cat videos” trains Google’s artificial intelligence as Google continues to learn about the user’s interests and other information including location, age, and gender.
Similarly, when shopping on Amazon, Amazon shoppers become pleasantly surprised when scrolling to the bottom of the web page as their eyes meet with personal recommendations. On Amazon, there is a section titled, “Customers who bought this item also bought”. This shopping section on Amazon’s website is primarily powered by artificial intelligence, mimicking the human brain as it tries to understand what a human is interested in based off of their Amazon searching and shopping history. Amazon’s innovative recommendations features that are powered by artificial intelligence account for 35% of their total revenue, as explained by Lineate when discussing the magnitude of Amazon’s recommendation engine.
Beyond search engines and predictive recommendations, artificial intelligence also supports navigation tools such as Google Maps. As a Google Maps user rushes from a meeting at their office to a family dinner at a restaurant, Google Maps accommodates the user with the quickest route possible. Google Maps automatically eliminates the longer routes, all while indicating the areas where there is more traffic or even a car crash. Beth Brindle’s HowStuffWorks article titled “How Does Google Maps Predict Traffic?” delineates Google Maps’s incorporation of additional traffic features such as disabled vehicles and slowdowns based off of user’s data when users turn on their Google Maps app and have their location services on. Without realizing it, users on Google Maps continuously send data to Google Maps; Google can track the speed of cars and whether one area is particularly more prone to traffic at certain times of the day.
At the touch of one’s finger, social media apps such as Instagram also rely on artificial intelligence. For instance, when scrolling through Instagram, users are oftentimes met with account recommendations. Instagram suggests accounts that the user would most likely be interested in following based off of the current list of accounts that the Instagram users. Additionally, Instagram takes advantage of the hashtags feature as a way to track the user’s interests. A user who continuously presses the “like” button on posts with hashtags like #cats, #dogs, and #cuteanimals would receive suggestions from Instagram, recommending the user to follow various animal Instagram accounts.
Artificial intelligence continues to take a step forward each day as computer scientists continue to perfect various algorithms and features of AI. Taking the time to observe one’s surroundings, it may be surprising to see how artificial intelligence appears in one’s lives every day.