Futuristic technologies that are changing our world

Self-driving vehicles, Natural Language Processing, and wearable robotics are just some AI-assisted technologies that are seamlessly being woven into our lives

There is no question that 2018 will go down in history as the year humankind accepted human-robot interaction (HRI) as a natural evolution.

As a CPA with a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) designation, I am often approached for my guestimate on when emerging tech will be integrated into our industry and into the industries of our clients. When it comes to HRI, it is already touching most aspects of our work and personal lives so effectively that we have just accepted it without really appreciating it’s there, behind the scenes in our many daily interactions.

Consider self driving vehicles. Sure, we all know that beta autonomous vehicles are being tested all over the world even though most of us don’t yet accept they will be commonplace in the very near future. In reality, we are already comfortable using much of the technologies that make self-driving vehicles possible.

Almost all new vehicles have well-known automation features. They slow down to avoid cars in traffic. They self park. They help a driver stay within their lane and proactively warn them of obstacles in their blind spot. This partial automation will simply continue to grow in capability until one day, within the next five years or so, we’ll be driven by vehicles without steering wheels. I already enter a driverless Terminal Link train to get to the proper terminal when I fly out of Pearson International Airport. And I do it without any hesitation or thought.

When you hear or read of Natural Language Processing (NLP) think Star Trek’s universal translator, only it’s no longer the stuff of science fiction. It’s everywhere. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and numerous startups have products, many of which support Bluetooth wireless ear plugs, that translate voice conversations in real time eliminating any language barriers. Conversational translation between friends and colleagues around the world, regardless of the country or the language, is sure to enhance our collaboration, assist with our travel and transition us into an era when we will not even know translation is happening.

And then there’s Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s virtual assistant, named Google Assistant. While Google may have been uninspired in its naming of this tool, what it can do is impressive. Many of you were likely introduced to Google Assistant with a recording of it booking a hair appointment. An even more amazing, though less reported by media, conversation occurred when Google Assistant called a restaurant to reserve a table and the human on the other end of the phone call spoke broken English. These are powerful examples of how commonplace it is for humans to speak with chatbots without knowing they are communicating with AI-enabled devices.

So as we look to technology to assist with communication, so also do we look to it to assist with manual labour. Wearable Robotics/Exoskeletons are robotic devices worn by humans and they are now being deployed in many industry sectors. Delta Air Lines, BMW, Caterpillar, Ford and GE are just a few examples of companies using these devices to protect and assist us (humans) with moving objects to avoid back injury. Exoskeletons are also helping stroke and spinal injury victims back on their feet.

I am hugely optimistic about the wonderful and powerful ways that HRI is enhancing our standard of living around the world. And I have no doubt that HRI-based AI assisted technologies will be as seamlessly woven into our lives as our smart phones. It’s already happening.

Dwayne Bragonier, CPA, CA, CITP, CA.IT, Founder, BAI Bragonier & Associates, Inc. This article is based on Dwayne’s session, Futuristic Technologies that are Changing our World, at AICPA ENGAGE 2018. Dwayne represents CPA Canada on the conference’s planning committee - Practitioner Symposium and TECH+ Conference. The 2019 ENGAGE conference is scheduled for June 9-13 of next year.