If you had told the younger version of yourself 10 or 15 years ago that artificial intelligence would make people’s lives easier, you may have thought the world would look like some sort of science fiction film.
That, of course, is not the case. These days AI apps and devices are very much a reality, and their capabilities become stronger seemingly every day. Here are six AI apps you can use right now to help make your life easier.
Apple’s Siri may have gotten the ball rolling, and others such as Google Assistant are now onboard, but the far-and-away leader in voice-activated AI apps is Amazon’s Alexa.
Just take a look at how many big-name brands have developed “skills” for Alexa. You can ask for a flash briefing from Fox News. You can order a pizza from Domino’s. You can get daily history lessons from cable network History. Or you can keep up with your March Madness bracket.
One area where Alexa makes day-to-day life easier on a more practical level is in your home. You can connect it to various devices around the house to transform it into a smart home. Once you’re set up, you can use Alexa to turn on lighting or fans, connect it to your thermostat to control the temperature or lock and unlock your doors with a simple voice command.
If Alexa is a basic hub for your smart home needs, think of Josh as the tricked-out version on steroids with bells and whistles you never knew you needed.
Josh works with all sorts of home devices — thermostats, lighting, cameras, TVs, motion sensors, window shades, TV set-top boxes, fans, garage doors, security systems and more.
The system has great technological minds behind it. Alex Capecelatro, who launched the social-networking app Yeti, and Tim Gill, who founded the graphic design app Quark, created it. Their idea stemmed from the desire to create a truly connected home, one where you don’t need varying apps to control each individual aspect.
One caveat — Josh has limited availability and is pretty expensive for a consumer product. When it rolled out last year, only 100 customers were allowed to purchase the system, and it cost a hefty $14,000.
The Wink system is yet another hub that turns your place into a smart home, with two key advantages: It’s affordable, and it’s easy to set up.
For example, the Wink Hub 2 device costs a very reasonable $99. That’s a good price considering it works with more smart home protocols than most similar devices, including Bluetooth LE, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Kidde and Lutron Clear Connect.
The other attraction is Wink’s simple setup. It has an auto-discovery feature that makes it easy to connect with any other smart home device you may already own. Put another way — if you’re in the market for a smart home hub for your not-so-technologically advanced parents or grandparents, this is probably the best bet.
You may think that personal financial advisors are only for the wealthy or those who use words such as “stock options” or “portfolio.” That was perhaps the case in the past, but it’s not anymore.
With the Penny app, everybody can have a financial assistant right on their smartphone. The app works by tapping into your financial statement histories — with your permission, of course — and then “chatting” with you about your finances, just as you would text message with a friend or family member.
Penny can let you know how you’re tracking this month, forecast where you will be next month, warn you about looming bills or encourage you to cancel services you pay for but don’t use. And Penny is nearly ubiquitous, available for both iOS and Android devices.
Many AI apps and devices focus on making life easier for you at home, but there are also some geared toward making your work life easier. One such tool is Index’s Personalization Engine, an intuitive way to analyze and cater to your company’s customers.
There is a lot of technology behind it, but in basic terms, the app is able to learn your customers’ behavior for predictive marketing purposes, then recommend products, special offers or rewards programs based on their preferences and shopping histories.
It’s essentially like having a marketing assistant in the palm of your hand. Among its abilities, it can combine the product affinity — preferences — and value threshold — price sensitivity — of your customers to come up with a coupon or discounting plan that will drive those same customers back to your retail location or website.
Anyone who takes notes during company meetings has been there. You find yourself so busy playing catch-up with what’s being said, you don’t actually absorb any of it. That, in effect, leads you to two meetings — the one in which you were taking notes, and another in which you re-read what you were able to gather.
If that sounds too familiar, you’ll want to give Clarke.ai a try. The app is like having a sidekick that follows you around and takes notes during all of your phone conversations, then boils them down into a detailed email.
The system works with all of the major teleconferencing systems using a dial-in and pin. It silently listens to the call and takes notes, then allows you to share them with anyone you’d like. Not only does the system help you save time, but it also allows you to actually pay attention to and grasp what’s being said.
When it comes to AI apps and devices, we’ve only just begun. There is already a good selection of applications for use at both home and work, but the capabilities will only improve as AI technology continues to evolve.