18:36 GMT03 August 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) Andrei Savenkov - The artificial intelligence (AI) sector has experienced a major boost in its popularity worldwide as people started to use voice assistant devices more often, while business is looking into reducing human interactions in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts told Sputnik.

    After the lockdown measures have been introduced globally, people have found themselves isolated at home and in some cases, completely on their own. Many have turned to the voice assistants to keep them company. That is proved by the NPR and Edison Research report, which has showed that in comparison with the beginning of the year, by April 2020 more voice assistant device owners used voice commands at least once or several times a day, while the percentage of those who only used voice commands once a week or once a month dropped drastically.

    AI is also joining the fight against COVID-19 in virus research as well as in the development of drugs and vaccines. Many major companies are developing projects in this field, for example Google-owned AI firm DeepMind, which focuses on predicting the protein structures associated with COVID-19. The technology studies the way the virus evolves and explores the possibility of further controlling it, showing that the humanity may recognize AI's potential for future health care once this pandemic is over.

    Lasting Trend

    The popularity of AI during the pandemic is growing across all sectors: from online education to sport and telemedicine, Irena Radyu, the chief marketing officer at Just AI, an international company focusing on on research, development, and implementation of Conversational AI systems, told Sputnik.

    "The online education sector is also set for growth in the next few years, as we are already seeing a surge in demand … We believe this is a lasting trend, that'll go beyond the traditional education services. Also, the workout streams that have been booming lately will definitely benefit from virtual assistance of some sort. Enabling users to ask questions, share their results, and get the necessary feedback in real-time will truly disrupt their online fitness experience," Radyu said.

    Apart from that, the pandemic has catalyzed the demand for remote mental health apps and chatbots, as well text-a-therapist platforms, the CMO noted.

    "Telemedicine is also experiencing a major boost in adopting conversational AI, with many tech companies offering conversational solutions to fight the new coronavirus. Just AI, for example, released an intelligent virtual assistant for government institutions that can share information and answer questions about the coronavirus. Voicify is working with state governments to build a coronavirus -focused voice apps. Microsoft offers a chatbot to help healthcare providers triage patients," Radyu added.

    As business needs to curb human interaction when providing services, it has already started to turn more to the solutions that AI can provide, according to the executive.

    "One day the crisis will be over and public venues will again open their doors, but the aftermath of social distancing will linger. In order to avoid lines and crowds, institutions will introduce more options for self-service. We are going to see more things like self-service kiosks and cash registers. And since touching surfaces in public places poses a real danger, those automatic services are likely to offer alternate interfaces like voice-powered or holographic screens. Moreover, venue owners are likely to start addressing this issue in order to stop the coronavirus from spreading - just like with 'no touch' holographic elevator buttons in China. So, we are sure to see more technologies that allow for 'no-touch' interfaces being adopted. There will definitely be more voice-powered devices in public places: from elevators to self-service cash registers to public restrooms," Radyu concluded.

    Scientists Turn to AI to Deal With Covid-19 Outbreak

    AI may offer some solutions in containing the outbreak of the COVID-19 and the chances of achieving some concrete results in that field are growing, Haym B. Hirsh, a professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Information Science with the US-based Cornell University, told Sputnik.

    "Many of AI’s successes have come from the use of machine learning on large amounts of relevant data. Because of the pandemic’s importance increasing types and amounts of data relevant to COVID-19 is becoming available, and the more data there is the greater the chance that something successful will arise. Both because of increasing numbers of people working on AI approaches to COVID-19-related problems, and the increasing amount of data that can inform such work, there are increasing chances that something of significance might result," Hirsh said.

    The achieved results in the field of AI could be used not only in medicine, but in contact-tracing and the service sector as well, according to the expert.

    Hirsh though warned that the global community should not be too optimistic as "AI has a long history of inaccurate and often wildly optimistic predictions about when certain significant milestones may occur."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    pandemic, COVID-19, artificial intelligence
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