AI is being used to powerful effect in addressing immediate pain points and longer-term issues caused by COVID-19. This is most conspicuous in the high-impact role AI is playing in the medical response to Coronavirus such as the use facial recognition and thermal imaging in viral detection, the use of AI powered analytics and modelling the development of vaccines. This will result in AI taking a deeper and wider role in the healthcare domain going forward, including the use of AI health monitoring and diagnostic applications, telemedicine, assisted living in the smart home and the use of robot helpers in hospitals and care environments.
But AI is also playing a role in a multitude of other, less visible scenarios besides healthcare that will resonate beyond the pandemic. Lockdowns and travel restrictions are driving a surge in e-commerce that is being accompanied by a new wave of innovation, and AI is at the heart of this. AI can be used to simplify ordering and payments for consumers, many of whom will be new to online shopping. An AI voice interface gives brands an interactive, personalized way to engage with customers, while consumers benefit from a convenient way to shop online. Augmented reality (AR) can be used to enhance online shopping (e.g., trying clothes on, virtual showrooms). At the same time, consumers need information and support at much higher volumes than usual, to the point where traditional care functions are being overwhelmed. AI powered virtual assistants or chat bots can help, but they must be trained to deal with COVID-19 issues in the relevant service domain.
AI is also helping to protect consumers in uncertain times.The increase in consumer online activity during the pandemic is opening the door for unscrupulous behaviour, including fake news and videos, exploitative advertising and trading, commerce scams, and fraud. AI can be harnessed to help combat these issues, for example via ML solutions for fraud detection and to monitor and remove disinformation related to COVID-19
Videoconferencing is a critical tool for keeping people in touch during lockdowns and for the massive increase in home working—the latter will become a more widespread trend post-COVID-19. AI can provide significant enhancements to videoconferencing, for example by automatically optimizing video bandwidth, with real-time background noise suppression, automatic translations and/or sub-titles along with personalization features such as changeable background visuals. People confined to their homes will have more time to interact with AI assistants, which is an opportunity for these products to demonstrate tangible benefits and utility to consumers that might not have been evident before. There will be strong demand for COVID-19 specific AI assistant apps (e.g., health advice, curated news feeds) along with an increase in shopping via AI assistants. These products will also act as boredom busters by entertaining users with games/quizzes, audio books, music playlists, self-learning/educational apps. AI assistants can also play a wider role in orchestrating the smart home ecosystem and we expect to see ramp up in smart living services during and after the pandemic, with spiked interest in how AI technologies can support assisted living use cases. The net result of AI’s role during the pandemic is a positive one, in the smart home and beyond, that will play out long after COVID-19 has abated, bringing benefits to consumers and creating new opportunities for service providers, vendors and other stakeholders.
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