Earlier this year, Pooya Abka
attended the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show
and walked away feeling validated. CES was all about Google Assistant this year and he knew he was definitely on to something in the artificial intelligence space.
You see, Abka is the founder of Idemandu
, an AI agent that learns and adapts to your needs over time. As Abka explained to me, we "created the first AI agent that can understand customers' service needs over voice, connect them to vetted service providers instantly, and learn about their personal preferences with time."
On top of that, they partnered with Google Assistant "to be the ultimate destination for service needs; from walking dogs to marketing businesses, even defending rights, and much more." So, seeing Google make a huge push with Google Assistant at this year's CES and attempt to take on Amazon Alexa was music to Abka's ears.
I spoke with Abka about Idemandu's mission and what the overall AI landscape means for us on a personal level. Given that he sees a lot of these technological advances taking place in a few years, you may want to find an AI agent that can take notes for you because you'll want to remember this.
"Hey Idemandu, could you ..."
Abka's company is more than just another AI agent. They're attempting to change the way we get things done on a daily basis. This isn't simply asking Alexa about the weather. Rather, it's like having your very own personal assistant.
Consider the following scenario Abka gave me that a typical Idemandu user could experience. As he explains, "... in less than a year, you may have the following conversation with your Idemandu Assistant while driving back from work:
You: "Hey Idemandu, could you ask my massage therapist to come to my place tonight preferably after 8? I'm feeling an annoying pain in my neck."
Idemandu: "Sure, but your therapist is not available tonight. I found another very similar therapist who is available, would you like to see him at 8 pm tonight? If not, I can book your own therapist for tomorrow at 8:30 pm."
You: "Okay, tell him to come tonight."
Idemandu: "Okay, he'll be there. I already briefed him about your pain."
Here, the hard work is done for you -- and you don't have to search for another therapist to have that neck pain worked out. In fact, he already knows about it.
How did we get here?
When you think about the technological advances just in the last 20 to 30 years, it's mind boggling. The Internet. Music in your pocket. Mobile applications. Smart phones. It's amazing how fast it happened.
Now, here we are today on the precipice of a new modern convenience: your very own AI agent. And as is common with these types of breakthroughs, it comes down to solving an individual pain point or need of the founder or inventor. Such is the case with Idemandu.
"In summer 2016, it took me almost three months to find, vet and hire a decent reasonably priced maid. Just two of the many things I did were signing up for a whole bunch of websites and reaching out to some cleaning companies on Yelp," explains Abka. "A process that should have been easy, affordable and fast, was taking several hours of my time."
So, he did what any self-respecting techie would do: he spoke to a friend about his problem. Then, they worked on a solution together. "I discussed the story with my closest friend (current co-founder) and realized he was experiencing the exact same difficulty in finding a decent plumber for his newly purchased house," Abka told me. "So we sat together and came up with Idemandu, an assistant that could seamlessly match service providers with people utilizing cutting-edge AI technology."
The possibilities truly are endless.
It's incredibly fascinating and even humbling to think of the many ways AI will change our daily lives. One such change that interests me as a financial writer and blogger is the money management angle.
As Abka illustrates for us:
On the personal level, an AI product can optimize people's financial decisions. Think of it as a fair, transparent and trained financial advisor that connects to your bank account to give you financial guidance on saving for college, buying a home or planning retirement. An essential recommendation model could compare one's financial situation with millions of others and recommend the best solutions.
I did some quick searching before writing this article and found one such AI agent. Her name is Olivia and she's "your very own financial assistant." Olivia will actually learn about how you spend your money and give you ideas for how to save more of it. I hope she can help my wife and I curb our habit of eating out too often!
That's not all this technology can do either. Abka sheds some light on some other uses for us:
AI technology has various problem-solving dimensions. For example, Computer Vision helps machines extract information from images and videos. There are several applications such as autonomous driving and product inspection.
Another crucial AI technology is Natural Language Understanding. It enables AI agents to interact with us using our natural language. It also enlarges the bandwidth of transferring information to computers, giving us incredible access to machine's computational power.
What does the future hold for us and AI?
One of the first things people bring up about any advance in technology is possible job loss -- and rightfully so. For those worried about losing their jobs to AI, I'd classify Abka's response as mixed yet promising.
"Is AI going to take our jobs away? Yes, perhaps at the beginning," he explained. "However, down the road, AI will help us direct our efforts in ways that are more useful to our existence. AI is a tool that can push the human race forward, like how other notable inventions did throughout the history of humanity."
AI will provide ways of doing things that many of us haven't even conceived of yet. According to Abka, "AI will show us how not to waste $165 billion of food every year in the US." It was also help us determine what skills we need "in order grow and flourish in our careers."
Lastly, what would a technology article from the last few months be with an obligatory blockchain mention? However, it's actually relevant and crucial to the service provider/customer relationship with Idemandu.
Abka explains it further, saying:
In the future, each time a transaction is scheduled to happen on Idemandu, the assistant will give you the option to record it as a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain network. Smart contracts are applications that run precisely as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference. Smart contracts will make transactions on Idemandu safe, transparent and reliable.
Change can either be embraced or feared. All too often we lessen the impact of an advancement by not allowing it to help us achieve our own goals and help others in the process.
Maybe we can go a different route with AI. Let's use it to solve our daily mundane problems, sure. But, then let's tackle some of the grander problems -- and at least make life a little better for each other.