The Thinking Mobile Device – Be Very Afraid

The Thinking Mobile Device – Be Very Afraid

September 11

Do you ever think that your mobile phone is getting smarter? Well, it probably is. When Apple launched the iPhone 4S and included digital assistant Siri, that brought artificial intelligence (AI) software out of the research labs and into the mainstream. Its immense popularity has led other tech manufacturers down the same route, transforming the smartphone into a powerful device for running your life.

Chief among those is Google whose Google Now, available for both Android and iOs mobile devices, combines the knowledge it gains from access to your location and calendar with information about your contacts and the topics you research to keep you up to date with your schedule, make sure you see relevant and important news, alert you to nearby events and more, providing relevant information the moment you need it. It can be scarily accurate, and it’s not the only game in town. As Christina Bonnington points out on Wired, AI apps are all the rage, with recent contenders including Tempo, Sunrise, Cal, Triposo and many more. All of these smart apps learn your preferences and behavior to provide a better service over time.

But is this a good thing? For some AI-enabled mobile apps might seem like too much of a precursor to the post-apocalyptic world of The Terminator, where machines are far too clever for humans’ good. At times, using apps like Siri and Google Now can make you feel like your privacy has been violated – after all, should your phone know that if you don’t leave in the next 10 minutes you’re going to miss a meeting with an important client?

But there’s another view, too. Even without a phone, we have become used to greater interconnectedness. That means many of us routinely use our Twitter, Facebook or Google account credentials to sign up for third party services or take part in online activities. And we’re happy to plugin location and destination details to our phones so we can use built-in GPS. Some could argue that we’ve already passed the point of no return and a smarter phone just takes this one step further.

In any case, there’s no going back now. As Forrester Research recently found out, most of us now take constant access to information wherever we are for granted (they call it the Great Mobile Mind Shift) so why should using that information to make our lives easier be a problem? And while we debate the issue, some people are already working on making mobile devices even smarter. The makers of Kimera want to take it beyond being contextually aware like Google Now or Siri to an extension of the user that understands what’s happening and launches the necessary apps and services to make that easier.

If this sounds too much like it might lead to assimilation by the Borg, then take heart. At the moment, AI apps are being used for good rather than to take over the world. A good example is Mobile Eye which uses artificial intelligence to help those with visual impairments navigate the world around them via a smartphone app. Clearly, it’s not so much about the technology, but about how we use it. So far, we still seem to be in charge.

Like mobile technology? It’s not all peppermints and puppy dogs. Check out the article: “Five things about your smartphone that will make you sick” to learn more.

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