The Internet Of Actions
GP-Bullhound released their 2018 technology predictions in early December 2017. At the top of that list was the changing relationship between technology and politics followed by cybersecurity, mobile over TV in China, translation technology, no more emails, international labor, the software suite, Industry 4.0 and the rise of regulators in blockchain and Initial Coin Offerings. Coming in last was Augmented Reality (AR).
But, according to Todd Richmond, IEEE Member and Director of USC’s Mixed Reality Lab, the next impactful technology shift is the Internet of Actions (IoA). IoA is a vision of digital technology becoming a more effective partner for humans as we navigate through our increasingly mixed-reality worlds.
Richmond believes that the key enabling technology is artificial intelligence (AI) which will drive the personalization that is part and parcel of IoA.
“One key challenge centers around trust. While humans have increasingly placed fairly blind faith in technologies such as search algorithms, online commerce, and GPS/navigation, those have been viewed as tools to be used rather than partners that are part of our team,” said Richmond. “Human-machine teaming will be a major area of research and development over the next decade or two, and as algorithms move into literally life-or-death decision making (e.g., autonomous cars), very human reactions will come to the fore.”
Richmond believes that technology development will need to be increasingly human-focused, and the field of Human Computer Interface (HCI) requires somewhat of a quantum leap to move towards the challenges of humans navigating an increasingly virtualized and autonomous agent populated world.
A great example of communication and AI is chatbots.
“We are seeing an increase of AI and chatbots in e-commerce settings to help buyers make smarter purchases and to enhance the overall customer experience,” said Omar Javaid, Chief Product Officer, Vonage. “AI and bots will enhance customer service by leveraging machine learning. Bots can already be trained to answer and respond to simple queries. Over time, Bots will be able to respond to more complex queries and their ability to solve complex problems will continue to increase, allowing them to interact in more meaningful ways with customers.”
“The Mixed Reality Lab at USC has been working for years to better understand the user’s experience with technology, particularly trying to assess user intent. Since the lab is often involved in creating new technology for training purposes, the human part of the experience equation is critical,” said Richmond. “For instance, if I put a human into a simulation and they make a “wrong” decision, if I don’t understand why that decision was made, I don’t have particularly actionable information to either improve the system or training design. The same will go for IoA experiences.”
Richmond has been working with drones at USC’s Mixed Reality lab that utilize human-machine teeming, which could play a significant role in the IoA of the future. In this experiment, a swarm of miniature autonomous drones follow each other to a closed door, then wait for the door to open before they proceed.
Richmond says that as algorithms become more integrated into our daily life and part of our decision-making process, it will be essential to understand both why a user takes specific actions, and also for the algorithm be to able to explain why things happen.
“We’re back to a key factor – trust. If a human does not trust the technology that they are presented, they will not engage it. Figuring out how to build trust between human-machine pairings will be key, and designing systems such that they expose their “story” behind their actions will be similarly important,” adds Richmond.
In an IoA world, the narrative becomes more important.
“Story is how we learn and understand, and the tools of abstraction and representation are critical for exploring and making sense of complexity – the best technology in the world is often useless unless it can help find or tell the story that is resident in our complex data/world,” said Richmond. “This combination and collaboration of technologists/scientists and artists/storytellers are absolutely critical as we move forward into our digital epoch.”