Applications are the front and centre of any computing world and technology today helps build intuitive and user friendly applications on devices of any form factor – from desktops to smartphones.
Gone are the days, when users were forced to "learn how to use a computer"! Today, computers are learning human language and behaviour more than ever, making it very easy for beginners or all ages to use computing to their advantage. This is an era where our interaction with computers is changing fundamentally, from "Machine Centric" interaction to "Human Centric" interactions. With human interactions, our inputs have changed from mechanical inputs like keyboard and mouse to more natural elements such as a touch and voice.
Figure 1: Human Interactions in computing
Getting computers to understand human interaction, requires artificial intelligence embedded deeply into computing, and this is possible today because of the vast amounts of data in our world combined with almost limitless computing resources and advances in technology such as deep neural networking and cognitive intelligence. Today, technology giants like Microsoft are not only investing heavily in this technology but are firm in their resolve to truly democratize artificial intelligence, by making easily consumable services that deliver the promise of AI.
Infusing Applications with Intelligence
The big question before technical decision makers is how do we leverage these technologies and infuse intelligence into existing applications. A well thought-out approach would make this journey enriching and fulfilling.
The low hanging fruit is to extend your enterprise applications with familiar experience to make them Expressive by enabling them with Voice, Touch or Inking capabilities. Most of our growing up life, we have used a Pen – to take notes, to solve equations, brainstorm ideas, whiteboard possibilities etc. It is just natural to then, to use Pen or Stylus or touch for computer based applications as well. Inking capabilities in Windows can enable us to write on our device just like we do on paper. Inking also converts the writing to editable text and can be mixed with Text, images etc. These capabilities can be extended to input forms of any line of business applications as well with the Ink SDK.
Applications should have the power of human language to and conversational
Agents in the form of Bots. We have seen these agents in Cortana, Siri or Alexa, but now using Natural Language engines, such as LUIS.ai, we can bring these conversational interfaces with voice recognition and natural language interaction to enterprise applications and extend these applications to the most commonly used communication channel such as the web, facebook, skype, mobile applications, slack, Office 365 mail, Teams and even text or SMS. Exposing these agents or Bots across different channels requires significant pluming work, but tools like the Microsoft Bot framework make this really simple.
Cognitive understanding in applications lets them "see" and identify objects, people, emotions and actions, "hear" and recognize language, and "learn" and develop a greater understanding over time. Imagine the application being able to read hand-written notes on paper or printed text on images and converting it to text, imagine the application describing exactly what happened, based on photographs taken at the event, or transcribing speech in real-time without human intervention, or imagine voice based verification or imagine stabilizing shaking videos or even describing an entire video in real-time. The possibilities are endless and REST based APIs available in Cognitive Services can make these possibilities come to life.
Our business applications need to be enhanced with machine intelligence to achieve prescriptive and predictive analysis. Traditional business intelligence gives us the ability to analyses data and determine "What Happened and Why it happened", however Machine Learning and big data storage and processing in the cloud gives us the ability to predict "What will happen" and take corrective actions. Enhanced Visualizations using Power BI that has self service capability to slice and dice data interactively.
Figure 3: End-to-End integrated platform, tools and services to build intelligent applications
Security and Identity is a key aspect that should not be compromised in the endeavour to infuse applications with security. Remembering multiple passwords for multiple systems has always been an issue and they have inherent dangers of being cracked. Windows Hello, an enterprise grade biometric solution that can enable finger, iris or even face based authentication that meets government and defence regulatory requirements. These authentication engines, can easily be extended into your applications. We already see usage of Finger Print based authentication being used by many enterprise grade applications on the iPhone.
Human-centric technologies is fundamentally changing how we consume applications in our personal space and the same should also apply to how we consume business applications. Democratizing AI makes it really simple to infuse intelligence into enterprise applications and will go a long way in taking businesses forward.