Telling of talking technology

When the New Scientist magazine celebrated 60 years in print, it produced a wonderful list of forecasts for the year 2076. Artificial starlight has made energy free. Human-made life forms walk the Earth. And thousands of people live on Mars.

Another long-range thinker is Ray Kurzweil, the legendary futurologist, now head of Google’s language research division. He reckons we’ll live in a super-sentient hive mind, in which man merges with machine to become a near-divine celestial intelligence. The moment of convergence is “The Singularity” in the year 2045. Believers are called Singulatarians. There’s even a Singularity University to track progress to this new era.

Personally, I prefer to look shorter term. We are witnessing miracles right now. This is the dawn of artificial intelligence (AI). In my field, document management, we are sketching out how our industry will be re-invented by AI over the next five years.

Here’s an example. If you want to find a document on your computer, you need to know where it is or use a crude search engine using keywords. AI changes this. Imagine you’ve seen a chart with five coloured circles intersecting. How about just telling the AI engine, verbally, what you’ve seen? It knows what you mean, with a wide margin of error, and produces it. That’s such a time-saver.

It won’t be long before we see a printer which has facial recognition built in. Walk up to the printer and it will see you. Your personal profile will be loaded. Relevant documents and print jobs will be loaded for you to command. Revolutionary? At first, yes. But soon everyone will demand it as standard.

Something I expected to see, but have not yet discovered, is an AI which suggests documents as you chat online

Something I expected to see, but have not yet discovered, is an AI which suggests documents as you chat online. Executives are increasingly using instant messaging (IM) such as WhatsApp, Skype or Slack to talk to colleagues and clients. We often mention documents or articles. It makes sense to have an AI tracking this dialogue and suggesting a relevant link when appropriate. You could be on the beach in Barbados chatting via IM to a prospective client, mention a report, and the AI would produce the link, with the report hosted in the cloud. You’d click “approve” and the link would be sent. No searching, no bother. All automated. It needs to happen.

Talking documents are coming. Today we work in silence. But sometimes we are multi-tasking. It would be productive to be able to command an AI, “Read me the conclusion to report A” and listen as a fluent voice recites the relevant text. Amazon is touching on this and has equipped its audio book store Audible to skip to the steamy sex scenes in novels. The passages are identified by an algorithm. It’s a light-hearted proof of concept of something with much wider potential.

There’s a serious point to this. We are all looking for a step-change in productivity. Here in the UK productivity hasn’t risen in a decade, according to the Office for National Statistics. AI can be the catalyst. We spend our lives working with documents. AI can make searching, using and sharing documents so much easier. It will put the turbo boost under productivity.

At KYOCERA Document Solutions UK we are always working to launch these breakthroughs. It’s making the document management sector incredibly exciting to work in. I want to live in a world where AI is normal in our industry and can’t wait to make it a reality.

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