The naming of Ray Kurzweil as Google's new director of engineering in late 2012 may not have registered as even a blip on the radar of many digital content companies (DCCs). But this simple hiring announcement concerning the famous futurist, author, and inventor may, in fact, represent a symbolic milestone in the rapidly changing information age. Because it's yet another sign that smart DCCs-including Google-value the promise and potential of artificial intelligence (AI), which Kurzweil has long preached has the capacity to greatly enhance our lives.
Only a few years ago, the concept of "artificial intelligence"-which computer science pioneer John McCarthy defined as "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines"-was thought of as elusive, fantastically futuristic and relegated to the realm of science fiction. But AI is ubiquitous today across many levels of technology, including electronic content. It's in the ingredients behind voice recognition and language translation software, search engine aggregation, turn-by-turn instructions on GPS devices, and product recommendations generated from online purchases. And it has the ability to transform the way DCCs do business in the near- and long-term future, say the experts.
"AI is impacting industries, including (DCCs), because of its ability to deliver human-level thinking through artificial brains that are responsive to understanding and responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner," says Peter Voss, CEO of SmartAction in El Segundo, Calif. "Soon, AI will have the impact of being a product differentiator to those companies with and without it."
Dean Landsman, president/founder of Landsman Communications Group in New York City, says AI has already impacted digital content in a meaningful way in the form of automated programmed searches and alert scripts, which can, for instance, bring news stories far and wide into viewable folders for analysis on a nearly immediate basis to benefit the electronic media.
"For example, the business press can spider through databases such as Tech Crunch's CrunchBase for news or changes in company status or personnel, funding rounds and the like," says Landsman. "The same goes for the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, even pop culture or social media sites such as Mashable. Machine runs review the sites, peruse every word, word string or phrase, and classify the data."
Don Turner, president/CEO of Veloxiti in Alpharetta, Ga., says AI-embedded software and systems can enable electronic content providers to offer personalized products and services to customers.
"A digital publisher will be able to know its readers-what they like, how they like it and when they like it," says Turner. "Consider a person getting ready to go to the gym for an upper body workout. An intelligent agent (an AI-powered app or digital program that emulates how humans think) can suggest a new article espousing the benefits of a new upper body workout routine. The AI can provide better granularity of information and an improved one-on-one connection between the digital content and the person."
Turner predicts that, in the future, DCCs will be able to harness intelligent agents that can automatically serve users by offering a wider choice of electronic content based on keywords, predetermined search patterns and user predictability-in essence, cutting-edge data searchbots that function like mind-readers.
"With AI, (the product) can begin to think for me as it searches to bring me the content I'm trying to find," says Jonathan Crane, chief commercial officer at IPsoft in New York City. "It will be easier and quicker for this content to be offered to me automatically. And it will have the ability to sense what access device I'm using and then format the content for that device. AI allows the content to be smart about its delivery methodology."
DCCs should care about artificial intelligence, says Jeet Banerjee, serial entrepreneur, author and digital marketing consultant in La Mirada, Calif., because AI provides a quicker and more efficient way to get things done.
"It advances and makes a huge impact on industries because it gives business the opportunity to expedite a process that is very slow and strenuous," Banerjee says. "Digital content companies need to understand that times are changing and must adopt their business models to fit these new technologies, including AI."
AI advancements offer DCCs the opportunity to improve the quality of distribution of content, lower the cost of that distribution and more reliably serve the customer. "If you had to hire people to manage and monitor these issues, it would be too costly," Crane says. "But AI can respond to these issues faster and at a much lower expense."
("Robot" image courtesy of Shutterstock.)