We encounter and use AI more than we possibly realize – usually knowing it is an AI or program but often we don’t even realize it is an AI (or algorithm / program) that is doing it’s magic. Digitalization and automation and content abundance challenges mean that we will face AI more and more daily. We are seeing AI (bots) in most of customer service situations: on web pages, inside chats like WhatsApp and Meta, phone calls and smart contact center by robots, and whenever we are making, for example, bookings and there is some smartness involved. Often a regular AI is rather simple algorithm but AI/bots can be a lot smarter. The point of all these is to automate customer services and thus extend service beyond the capacity that is available by real people. Not everyone wants to make that phone call anyway – people may want to chat to get things done – or they have a slot during the night. After all – in the future work will be a lot more asynchronous than it is today. It means businesses need to start thinking about flexible models how they can provide service 24/7 that gets most of ordinary cases done. That is AI we are going to be seeing a lot more in the future – leaving anything you can automate to programs and letting people take care of more challenging cases.
Many are already using AI in our lives daily: Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana can help us around when we “speak to computers” like in some scifi settings. Of course one of my favorite GIFs in this is this one – and it has been reflecting voice UI for quite some time (until recent years this became to change rapidly for far working direction):
All this was just framing the ground to the actual point of this post. AI and bots exist and we have been getting more used to trust their capabilities.
Now that we are getting more used to trust AI and bots and their capabilities we enter the new era – Metaverse. We might, or might not, be wearing 3D/XR headsets but we will explore the virtual world. In there we will encounter other avatars and engage in activities with them. These avatars may be our colleagues, friends, fellow players, others enjoying the conference, concert or an event but we should be expecting to see bots (smarter with AI or just less smart but tailor to specific objectives) as well. Bots do have a dark echo in their name when it comes to games, but looking at Metaverse scale we will be looking forward meeting people behind those avatars but also bots who can help us out.
Just like with a chat bot these days, we want to do business at the Metaverse. We may be buying new electronics, virtual or real clothes, vacations or just wanting to familiarize ourselves with the car we consider to buy , apartment we consider to rent or perhaps we want to take a tour on the vacation site / ship before we commit to that. We are looking for a new jobs or wanting to know more about a company. Lots of these activities we do today via web pages in 2D format is something we want to explore in the immersive world. Not because it is easier than browsing and reading a page, but because get a better experience out of that. Think about when you consider buying a new car – you want to learn about it (well, I want to anyway) and explore it various ways to make sure it meets your needs. You may want to do that before booking a test drive so you don’t waste time by going from a dealer to dealer. In some cases there may not even be a possibility to do a real test drive, since they car is just coming out on the following year.
In several scenarios you want to also learn more about something. You just don’t want to go around by yourself – it doesn’t really get that experience. Perhaps you have the virtual retail agent avatar (bot, AI) with you – telling you about the apartment, car sales avatar (again, bot) to answer your questions and so for. Think onboarding a company: getting to know the office, learning about the offering, practices, work duties and taking tests to qualify for certain roles. AI can help you to perform these in your own pace – even a the middle of the night if that suits you better than the day. Or perhaps there would be a queue of days-week to get a real person to test or onboard you while AI is there all and available all the time. Digital Twins can help you to onboard and practice a hotel that is still being build: where are stairs, fire escapes, emergency medical packages. How to meet customers, how to learn to use hotel systems and practice facing different scenarios. Some of those elements can be managed by AI and sometimes there would be real persons behind avatars.
That is the direction we are heading to every year in an accelerating pace. Getting service asynchronously and 24/7 – when it suits us instead of when it suits the shop. Those shops not in the Metaverse will eventually begin to see that they are not being reached as much as their competitors who are there. This situation is in-part with the emerge of the Internet and WWW-pages 20-25 years ago. At that time you could only find a handful of businesses with a website – in the world we live today the business practically doesn’t exist without a website (yes, I know – some business do but they are often small ones and known locally). This is what we will be seeing with the Metaverse in some years. Since this post is about Conversations in AI, this also means that the mere “static” Metaverse presence is not enough. You need to be able to convert those visits to opportunities, to customer engagement, to sales, to money. People don’t just look for the information in the Metaverse, they will make decisions when at the shop (talk about advertising possibilities!). For that they need the digital assistant / virtual avatar / a bot they can have a conversation with and who can complete the transaction.
It is not hard to believe that Nadella’s statement wouldn’t be fulfilled. AI and language understanding is evolving very rapidly and this means that the most cost-efficient way for businesses will be the bring AI with an avatar to help customers. First ones are still recognized as bots very easily (and yes, we can loose our mind with them now and then when they don’t understand ) but in time we may be fooled for longer period of time – or perhaps we don’t even think if that is a computer program or a real person. This brings in ethical discussion at that time – and businesses will very likely make certain customers know when they are speaking to a bot and when to a real person.
On the enterprise side we might have personal assistants who we will be talking to in the Metaverse. Thinking Microsoft Metaverse and solutions like Microsoft Viva. Perhaps Viva will be an avatar we can call in and get advice, Power BI might have an avatar so we can create reports out of the data we have access to (there is already a natural language query available in text) or Viva Connections would be telling us the recent news. Teams might want to pop in (let’s not think too much Clippy here!) and remind that we have a meeting to join. Will these be AI avatars or just UI elements with embedded AI?
Do we want to have a conversation with AI to help us get a better workday experience and plan for the next day?