AI and mobile apps: What really matters

More apps use AI to do things for us, such block and remove offensive posts on Instagram. Soon AI will take the limelight, and the apps will move the background.

AI and mobile apps: Here's what really matters
Credit: Instagram

The best AI stays out of the way.

You don’t notice it is even working. The car swerves slightly to avoid moving out of a lane, and you keep listening to Nirvana classics. Your email app blocks annoying messages that are not technically spam but sent by people who have no right invading your inbox. At home, your garage doors close silently at 10pm on the dime. You keep watching a baseball game and eating a burger.

Now, you can add this to the list: a mobile app is blocking offensive content.

Instagram announced today they are using AI to stop, block and remove offensive posts before you ever see them. You keep scanning through wedding photos from last weekend. It’s a technology Facebook (which owns Instagram) has started using, as well.

For any mobile app, we’re now living in the age of AI, and we’ll slowly start to see more and more uses of technology that can help us—and stay out of the way.

Instagram isn’t looking for just keywords, similar to Twitter. There’s an algorithm that knows the context and which phrases and words are meant to cause harm.

In 2017 and beyond, that will be the true differentiator with AI. It means nothing to the average user if a bot can talk like a human or order pretzels for you. It will mean everything if they barely know the app is using AI—that they see improvements in their everyday lives. It means everything if the pretzels just arrive.

How AI in apps makes our lives easier

Here’s an example. I once tested the Vivint app and kept using it to control the lights in my house and adjust the thermostat. That is so 2016 now. This year, I’ve started relying on the AI in the app (and not even using the app at all) that knows when I’m not home. I don’t think that much about Vivint; I don’t bother adjusting the dial. The app has suddenly become something I use when I want finer control or to adjust the settings.

Thinking about how this works in Instagram, I don’t need to delete comments or block people. I’m not typing as much. I focus more on crafting a new post and flicking through the feeds of my friends. AI will mean we use our phones less, not more.

In an enterprise setting, it means apps will be useful for customization and communication, but we’ll let the machine learning handle mundane tasks such as replying to an email from the boss or dealing with a routine server ping.

The great nirvana state for apps is that we use them less—or not at all. The constant hunting around for multiple apps, tapping on the screen constantly—that’s going to go away soon. In many ways, in my daily routine, I’m already tapping a lot less. Some of the apps I use, such as Vivint, are doing some of the heavy lifting in the background. I’m expecting more of my favorite apps, such as Sprout Social, to follow suit. (They’ve already added Twitter bots for pro users.)

Someday soon, apps will move to the background and AI will take the limelight.

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