Salespeople, call centre staff and customer service personnel could all be replaced by computers within the next few years, claims one technology entrepreneur.
By Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor
4:40PM BST 29 Aug 2013
Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) specialist Dmitry Aksenov has been working on building computers that “think like human beings” since he was 10 years old. “It is my passion,” he said.
Mr Aksenov, now 21 years old, founded technology company London Brand Management in 2011. The company provides an AI service for big brands who want to outsource customer or staff interactions to computers. Customers send questions in to LBM’s system (nicknamed “The Brain” by developers) via email or text and it responds within five seconds.
This technology is currently being used by BMW to field questions about its new electric car, the i3. BMW UK marketing director Chris Brownridge has found the system uncannily human in its responses. “BMW I Genius is capable of understanding each question and responding accurately every time as if you were talking to an expert from the company,” he said. “The system operates around the clock, allowing the consumer to ask any question relating to the “i” cars but without the hassle of having to pick up the phone or go into a dealership.”
Thousands of users have already tried the service. “The only thing that gives away the fact they are talking to a computer is that it responds so fast,” said Mr Aksenov. “No real person could receive, read and respond to a message in three seconds.”
“It not only reads the keywords and understands the kind of information you are trying to learn; it also interprets context, sentiment, and can even understand humour. It also remembers and learns as you talk to it, so it’s capable of having a proper conversation.”
This new technology represents a huge step forward in service automation, he claimed. LBM’s system is cloud-based, which means it can be accessed from anywhere (like Gmail or Facebook). It can deal with thousands of enquiries simultaneously, and its database has an unlimited memory capacity.
The Brain is equivalent to having thousands of call centre staff or salespeople, he said. “Except that unlike people, with our limited brain capacity, AI remembers everything and needs no downtime.”
The company is currently focused on replacing traditional sales and marketing roles but is also moving into the customer care and call centre space. New projects for an NHS cancer hospital and a major Japanese electronics company are already under way. “There are applications for this system in hundreds of industries,” he said.
Mr Aksenov provides the technology to brands under licence with a one-off implementation fee to “teach” the system. Unlike hiring humans, however, “AI only has to learn once,” he said.
“Within five years we will have a system that truly knows more than a human could ever know and is more efficient at delivering information,” he said. “It will replace many of the boring jobs that are currently done by humans. Unfortunately, this may take some jobs from the economy by replacing human beings with a machine. But it is the future.”