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Insights and Trends - AI Based Virtual/Personal Assistants

Some relevant projected trends in the virtual assistant industry include high market growth and user adoption rates, the increase in personalization of services offered by virtual assistants and the new and innovative functionalities that can be expected in the near future.

Continued Future Growth

  • The size of the virtual personal assistant market is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2017, to as much as $15.59 billion in 2021.
  • The user base is also expected to increase, with estimates suggesting that 1.8 billion people will be using artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled virtual personal assistants by 2021.
  • Examining reasons for the massive adoption of AI-based virtual assistants, the European Commission concluded that the main driver behind the massive increase in user adoption is the ease of use of such assistants.
  • In fact, a study by the European Commission found that over 60% of users say that “usefulness when hands/vision are occupied” is one of the main reasons for using virtual personal assistants, while "30% indicate that voice is a quicker method to search for something ".
  • This is supported by a different study that determined that 54% of users say that "digital personal assistants have a big role in easing their lives", and 65% of them claimed that the technology has many different uses.
  • This trend is particularly relevant because the market is currently dominated by a few big technology companies, and the increase in user adoption will also lead to greater competition in the market.

Increase in Personalization

  • In the future, virtual assistants will offer greater personalization features to their users.
  • With advances in voice recognition and pattern-matching technologies, assistants will be able to recognize users more efficiently and provide an individual experience for each of them.
  • AI-based personal assistants will be able to sift through and include relevant information about users from enterprise systems within an organization. For example, when users want to make a claim for a vehicle, the virtual assistant will access the internal database to see a list of vehicles the user owns, and ask the customers which one they would like to make a claim for.
  • Mattersight Corporation has developed a technology called Predictive Behavioral Routing, which analyzes the speech patterns of callers to determine their psychological profile. It then matches the customers to human support operators that are most likely to have compatible personality types.

New Virtual Assistant Functionalities

  • While virtual assistants are currently just reactive and represent little more than a new way for people to interact with machines, the European Commission predicts that the AI-based personal assistants of the future will also be able to make decisions and even replace humans in performing different simple tasks.
  • Additionally, as virtual assistants get integrated with more Internet of Things (IoT) devices, their functionalities will also increase. Currently, there are already some devices like thermostats and refrigerators that can interact with virtual assistants. However, the future developments will not only enable more devices to be controlled by AI-based personal assistant, but it will also enable users to interact with virtual assistants in different ways. This will likely occur because the processing of commands can now be separated from the input method, so devices will be able to listen to users and send their instructions to a central processing unit in a home or office.
  • Today, most virtual assistants are accessed by voice. However, the developments in facial recognition and emotion-tracking technologies are driving the trend of increasing virtual assistant capabilities. By employing biometric data, virtual assistants will be able to draw their conclusions from many different signals unique to each individual.
  • Nuance Communications developed an innovative system for doctors to take notes. While note-taking in itself is not an innovative function of virtual assistants, Nuance's personal assistant listen to the doctor and flag any potential conflicts between different drugs prescribed to the same patient. This has the potential to significantly reduce adverse reactions between different medication taken by an individual.

Research Strategy

To identify the most relevant projected trends in AI-based personal assistants, we have consulted major publications and reports by leading media outlets in the field of AI. We have first selected those trends that were mentioned in multiple reports to ensure that we are only providing recent and repeated developments in the industry. From that list, we have included those trends which are likely to have the greatest impact on the industry in the future by determining how different those trends are from the current state of affairs. A report compiled by the European Commission was particularly relevant in helping us understand the current level of technological development in the industry and the major directions for future innovation.