Innovation Insights: Are humanoid robots the future of AI?

February 27, 2020

Matthew Hellon
Research Executive

Innovation Insights is a monthly series on research world looking at all thing’s technological innovation. The series is based on several recent surveys with Arm (semi-conductor company valued at £23.4 billion) and will cover topics such as:

  • Security – will security concerns stifle technological and product innovation or simply lead to more secure products?
  • Insight driven innovation – what processes can be used to turn insight into innovation and how can insights into the way youths interact with technology be used to prototype software that assists and empowers them to tackle cyberbullying?

This, the second article in the series, will examine the form Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take in the future and how this will impact the way companies innovate with AI.

But first, what form is AI taking now?

Only 9% of a global sample (3,800 people across 8 regions) think of AI as a humanoid robot despite their popularity in Hollywood. Most people (82%) think of AI as digital machines, learning and making decisions – often faster and more accurately than a human.

Films like Ex-Machina and i Robot may seem farfetched to people at this current time but the technology is coming. Sophia – a humanoid robot – was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship and recently appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Whilst Sophia’s sophistication is uncommon, it shows potential for the present view of primarily digital AI to change.

How does AI manifest in products and services?

We can understand how people view AI today by looking at where they see AI as essential in various products or services. AI has 3 distinct roles in people’s lives:

  1. AI as a separate being – Autonomous AI we interact with as if they were alive (e.g. smart speakers)
  2. AI as a visible enhancement – Interacting with AI to solve a problem (e.g. Google maps)
  3. AI as a hidden guide – AI is not perceived to play a role such as online shopping, despite it often being essential to many products and services.

These roles vary in how explicit an element AI is within the product or service. For example, 58% of people believe that AI is essential for voice assistants. A device that listens and talks to you seemingly must work with AI.

However, AI also plays a more hidden role, often subtly suggesting things for us such as with Netflix and online shopping recommendations. There’s a fine line to be drawn between improving our lives and interfering with them. People are more comfortable with AI that is semi-autonomous, enhancing but not dictating our lives in the background.

How will AI’s form change in the future?

21% of people believe that AI will take the form of humanoid robots in 2050. Much like voice assistants being synonymous with AI, so too will humanoid robots. It’s hard to imagine a walking and talking robot without it needing to be powered by AI.

Most people (52%), however, think that AI will be invisible technology that’s built into our everyday lives. Arguably, this is happening already, but people aren’t aware that AI powers the products and services they use every day.

How far are people willing to go to converse with AI?

Regardless of AI’s form, digital or humanoid, it’s possible we may have to adapt to live with it rather than the other way around. 58% of people are willing to learn a new language to converse with AI. This implies that people are so familiar and confident with AI’s benefits, they would commit enough time to learn a language just to converse with it.

With conversation flowing, 36% of people believe they could grow to love an AI like a pet and 27% could love an AI like they love a fellow human. With a projected increase in the number of AI powered humanoid robots, we may see the amount of people falling in love with AI increasing.

What does this mean for innovation?

For companies developing innovative AI products and services these insights provide direction:

  • Devices that converse with us in our language are perceived to use AI the most
  • Humanoid robots powered by AI are expected to be much more common in the future as a natural progression from smart speakers, but AI will largely be invisible
  • If AI is central to your product or service, shout about it. People don’t want secret manipulation of their choices because of AI
  • People are willing to make large changes in order to converse and work with AI if the benefits are clear. Despite technological advancements, the marketing fundamentals of communicating your product’s benefits remain the same

Next month we’ll cover the consumer view of what Arm dub as the 5th wave of computing. This is the combination of 5G, the internet of things and AI leading to powerful innovation opportunities. Stay tuned.

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