Despite the buzz, consumers lack awareness of AI capabilities

While artificial intelligence (AI) is among the hottest tech topics today, consumer adoption and awareness is largely limited to the most visible applications through natural language processing, like Siri and Alexa, according to the results of a recent survey of 1,600 U.S. consumers from innovation agency Rockfish Digital.

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Based on the findings, nearly 50 percent of respondents say they have not interacted with a form of AI, while another 23 percent are not sure. For the 29 percent who have interacted with AI, the majority use if only occasionally, revealing the need for further education on the technology’s breadth.

“By many accounts, AI is going to completely change the way business is done—and, our economy as we know it. What we lack today is a deep understanding of the meaningful applications,” said Josh Cottrell, VP and executive technology director of Rockfish Digital, in a news release. “Generally, as marketers and business innovators, we need to move the consumer perception of AI away from simple natural language processing and the convenience that voice-enabled devices provide. The lack of awareness of how AI may be impacting their lives more profoundly shows that there is a way to go before we’ve truly defined what it all means.”

Key findings of the research:

Smartphones reign

For those who do interact with AI, smartphones are overwhelmingly the primary device—67 percent vs 17 percent using Echo and 5 percent using Google Home.

Knowledge is power

More than a third of U.S. consumers cite information consumption—news, weather, stocks—as a primary utility; 21 percent use it for actions, such as texting, reading or calling. Only 5 percent cited shopping tasks.

Convenience is king

Forty-four percent of consumers use AI for perceived convenience; nearly half find ease of use most satisfying, but only 7 percent cite breadth of capabilities.

You go, girl

The clear majority of consumers (65 percent) prefer AI with a female voice; additionally, 60 percent say they prefer when voice has some personality.

Don’t make me repeat myself

More than a third of respondents are frustrated when they are misunderstood and another 20 percent are when they must repeat themselves.

“Voice is the tip of the iceberg in the world of AI,” said Jarrod Ramsey, VP of technology and member of the AI Taskforce at Rockfish Digital, in the release. “Only half of consumers knowingly interact with AI, and that can be a good thing. Good AI should be invisible and seamless. The frustrations consumers experience with voice tell us that, as an innovation-driven economy, we must be better at execution if we’re to move the needle on informed perception.”

AI impacting consumers beyond simple voice interaction

While natural language processing (NLP) is the most visible application for AI today, technology that is consumer-facing is rapidly in development. These applications are across the categories like learning, problem solving and reasoning. Real examples include:

  • Advanced Product Selector: To create a less scripted product recommendation experience for consumers and using technology like Watson Analytics, users input criteria on products they care the most about, and recommendations are suitably tailored to their needs.
  • Vehicle Purchasing ProcessFinding a car via a dealer that fits precise needs and wants can be frustrating for consumers. Employing technology like Azure Machine Learning Studio, automakers can more intelligently craft manufacturing and distribution based on predicted consumer demand.
  • Intelligent Job SearchCurrent job search solutions are static and powered by keyword and location searches. Using IBM Watson Rank & Retrieve and IBM Watson Personality Insights, natural language processing can be employed to create a smarter job-seeker interface and deliver personality insights to HR professionals.


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Bulldog Reporter

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