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Consumers confused about AI, businesses must adapt, survey finds

By Julia Gabel
Fri 7 Apr 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Consumers are confused about artificial intelligence. This is evident according to a recently released report by Pegasystems Inc.

6000 customers from 6 countries, including 1000 Australians, took part in the survey.As well as Australia, survey participants were from the United States, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Generally, consumers appear hesitant to fully embrace AI services and misplaced fear stops users from using AI-based technology. The results also say that these fears are often eased following firsthand A.I experience.

The report found that Australians are some of the most open to the uptake of AI. However, only 40% of this cohort are comfortable with businesses using AI to engage with them. This includes instances where customer service experience would be improved through AI.

In Australia, 67% of participants express some sort of fear about AI, with 18% concerned about robots taking over the world.

Often, many AI users aren’t aware they are using AI. Only 37% of Australian respondents thought they had direct AI engagement.

However, when asked about the technology used in their daily life, the survey found that 87% used at least one AI-powered device or service, such as virtual home assistants or predictive product suggestions. 39% knew Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home run on AI.

The results of the survey reflect a basic misunderstanding of AI by consumers. 74% of Australians confidently claimed that they understand AI, but significantly less than that could define what it is or what it does.

For example, relatively few knew that AI has the basic ability to interpret or understand speech (36%) or mimic humans (35%). Just over half could identify some of the most common AI capabilities, like solving problems (52%) and learning (61%).

The data shows that consumers are significantly more comfortable with AI if they think they have previously been exposed to it. Of all survey participants, only 25% of the people who report no AI experience feel at ease with businesses using AI to engage with them.

But for AI veterans, this number jumps to 55%. On the other hand, 75% say they would like more exposure to AI if it makes their lives easier.

For businesses using AI, the report suggests that they need to be more transparent about the use of AI in their products and services.

Companies should find effective ways to expose customers to the benefits of AI that work to change their misperceptions and establish trust and comfort over time.

The survey also highlighted some differences by gender and generation.

More men think they understand what AI is (78%) than women (69%). However, more women correctly identified that Siri (70%) and Alexa (42%) are powered by AI than men (61% and 36%, respectively).

While those 55 and older are generally less comfortable with AI than millennials (ages 18-24), they are also surprisingly less fearful of AI consequences – 31% expressed no fears compared to 26% of millennials.

Don Schuerman, VP of product marketing and CTO, Pegasystems, says that AI has now evolved to a point where businesses can engage with each individual consumers on a real-time, one-to-one basis.

He comments, “but our study suggests the recent hype is causing some confusion and fear among consumers, who may not really understand how it’s already being used and helping them every day.”

“Businesses need to focus on using AI to develop applications that provide real value for customers to improve their experiences rather than overhyping the technology itself."

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