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April 2017, Vol. 5, No. 2

The power, promise and controversy of AI applications

A recent comic strip called GIL depicted an 8-year-old boy calling out commands to what he thought was the Amazon Echo. After two simple directives and no response, he shouted, "Alexa! What is wrong with you?!" Gil's mother saw this and asked her son why he was yelling at her new coffee grinder. The fact that there's a front-page comic strip in the Sunday newspaper dedicated to an artificial intelligence system tells me the technology is officially mainstream. Analysts predict voice will be the next big user interface, and though I'm skeptical of predictions for reasons we laid out in our February issue of Business Information, this is one forecast I believe. I have an Amazon Echo at home, and while it has a number of useful skills, I mainly use it for five rather mundane purposes: to play music, hear news briefs and weather forecasts, answer questions I'm too lazy to type into a search engine, and it works as an overpriced cooking timer. Echo does a good job of understanding these basic calls, and it even deciphers my 4- and 2-...

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