Will you soon be having conversations with your toaster?

Autonomous agents are pushing the boundaries of the way we relate to our technology, but how intelligent can your device really get?


As anyone who’s watched any science fiction movies will know, the rise in technology that can think for itself is much anticipated by sci-fi fans and scientists alike. Although real artificial intelligence may still be a way off, autonomous agents are taking over the tech landscape as we speak.

Intelligent applications such as Apple’s Siri and Google Now have shifted the way many people interact with their devices, so what kind of effect will this have on app developer roles and the IT industry in general?

Machines – just like us?

In the contemporary era, technology such as mobile phones are constantly present in our everyday lives, and the market is showing an increasing demand for devices that are hands-free and more readily accessible than ever. This is why many leading technology developers are focussed on creating technology that we can interact with like a person.

There has been a climb in the development of applications that use voice control instead of buttons or onscreen menus, and according to research by Gartner, our devices are becoming smarter than ever.

Gartner predicts that Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA) such as Google Now and Siri are precursors to a more advanced form of intelligent agent, and it is likely that VPAs will continue to shape the user experience in the coming years. In fact, this new breed may be close on the technology horizon, with The Washington Post recently reporting that Apple is developing a new intelligent interface named “Viv,” which is driven by an unheard of volume of data and the ability to learn.

A new user experience

Autonomous interfaces are set to drastically change the experience of the user, not only in terms of the device itself but also in how they relate to the world around them. According to embedded computer technology provider Kronton, these interfaces are already capable of managing complex tasks and understanding the true intentions of the user. They enable you to do everything from order a custom pizza to call a taxi, all by “talking” to the intelligent agent.

Gartner Vice President David Cearley believes that the IT industry is likely to continue to explore how it can use autonomy to augment the tasks of daily life.

“Over the next five years we will evolve to a postapp world with intelligent agents delivering dynamic and contextual actions and interfaces,” he says.

However, autonomous agents are still a phenomenon which must continue to develop and improve in the long term, with those in IT careers pushing the boundaries of what machine learning can do, and providing us with new ways to access our environment through technology.