Artificial Intelligence helping Kiwis every day: NZTech

NZTech CEO Graeme Muller says New Zealanders are engaging with artificial intelligence (AI) everyday, probably without even realising it.

Muller made the comments on the eve of the launch of the New Zealand AI Forum in Wellington, describing AI as “the fastest growing impactful technology spreading the globe.”

The forum was announced in February with further details being provided in late May, including the naming of Stu Christie, investment manager at the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, as its chairman.

NZTech says dozens of New Zealand’s leading tech companies are joining the forum, which has been initiated via a collaboration between NZTech, the government and AI tech leaders.

According to Muller, one of the most recent examples of AI in New Zealand is the chat function on the Air New Zealand website that helps with ticket bookings: users of that function are chatting with AI not a human, Muller said.

"The more you engage with it the better it gets at helping you,” he said. “Air New Zealand’s chatbot, Bravo Oscar Tango, or Oscar for short, is becoming more user friendly and more helpful the more it interacts. There’s no doubt that AI is the future, allowing travellers to better self-serve within their channel of choice, further improving the customer experience.”

Another example cited by Muller is the search function on the Harvey Norman website, and other global e-commerce sites.

“Users are actually using Christchurch-based search specialist firm SLI Systems' embedded search software which uses AI to serve up even more relevant information,” Muller said.

"SLI Systems, NZX listed and one of New Zealand's top 100 tech exporters, has seen some e-commerce customers conversion rates improve by as much as 71 percent after they deploy their AI assisted search functionality on their sites and apps.”

He added: "New Zealand leaders Soul Machine and FaceMe have developed AI systems that have a human face that can respond to your body language and emotions. Their AI, Nadia, is being deployed across Australia as an assistant for disabled people.”

Soul Machines was launched last November by the University of Auckland and was its biggest commercial spin-off to date.

According to the University, Soul Machines is developing a completely new user interface between humans and their machines, based on technology created by Dr Mark Sagar and his team at the University’s Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI).

Muller concluded: "AI is happening already and as more and more New Zealand firms start using computer systems that can adapt and learn we will see a massive improvement across many services.

He said the AI Forum would critical for New Zealand in sectors as diverse as education, healthcare, retail and agriculture.

"We are seeing so much AI appearing and changing our lives, we are committed to this coordinated approach,” Muller said. “We’ll see big changes in our everyday activities this year and the next few years that many people cannot comprehend.

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