Our workplaces are changing thanks to new technologies that are being deployed. These technologies, including natural-language processing, robotics, chatbots, and more, promise the opportunity to enhance the customer experience, create efficiencies, and reduce costs. They are also altering the tasks humans will complete, how work gets done, and creating new jobs and responsibilities for humans. Every professional should be aware of and prepare for these six career-defining tech trends.
Now that natural-language processing, the ability for a machine to “read” language like a human and then take action from that information, has advanced to the point that it’s helping with everyday tasks, every business should be figuring out ways to apply this technology to their own processes. Conversational interfaces can break down communication barriers between companies and their customers. This will, for example, make it easier to overcome language barriers and do business with others from around the globe, while at the same time creating efficiencies and enabling a better customer experience.
The segment of artificial intelligence that allows machines to “see,” analyze visual data and then make decisions about the visual input is called computer vision. With this skill, machines can identify, verify, classify, and detect objects as well as, or in some cases better than, humans. Computer vision is already relied on for many health-care applications, and used in autonomous vehicles and many other industries, from agriculture to finance to manufacturing. As more companies adopt this technology, it will alter and create new tasks for humans in the workplace.
Are you ready to have a robotic co-worker? While this reality has been commonplace in the industrial world for some time, robots will continue to expand influence in the business world and in our homes. Many new business ventures are developing robots to support humans in several ways, from being companions for senior citizens to delivering products. Cobots (collaborative robots) are meant to assist humans in the workplace with either advice (based on crunching data), mechanical muscle, or other support. Robots can drive efficiencies and safety in the workplace. And with open standards for robotics, many individuals and organizations have the opportunity to develop and deploy robots by using open-source tools such as Amazon’s AWS RoboMaker platform.
Now that every major automobile manufacturer is investing in self-driving technology, it won’t be long before level-five autonomous vehicles (fully self-driving without any human intervention) will be on our roads. One of the first applications will be in the haulage and logistics industry, where vehicles such as Mercedes Benz’s Arocs semi-autonomous trucks will transport goods on highways. We can expect that autonomous technology will also alter our current vehicle models, as well. Many experts believe that autonomous vehicles will make it no longer necessary for every family to own their own car. Ride-sharing and self-driving taxi services will alter our daily commutes.
Extended reality is the umbrella term to describe immersive technologies (virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality) that merge the physical and virtual worlds. It’s a growing market that is expected to reach $209 billion by 2022. There are many practical applications of extended reality for businesses, from giving customers the ability to try before they buy in retail to training and marketing for any industry. Once the challenges of full-scale adoption for extended reality are overcome — privacy, cost of implementation, and technical and hardware issues — extended reality will be transformative in the business world, and we will see many more mainstream applications.
Smart assistants and chatbots
Most of us are quite familiar with smart assistants and online chatbots already. Virtual smart assistants can understand spoken language commands and can help us complete tasks through user input and location awareness, and by accessing online information. Often referred to as conversational agents, chatbots are similar to virtual digital assistants because they are meant to interact and communicate with humans. These virtual tools help companies deliver a positive customer experience, free up human personnel for other tasks, and streamline service.
While there is no crystal ball to determine the timeline for when each individual will definitely be affected or have his or her positions augmented by these technologies, the evolution has begun.