With devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo already doing the rounds, it seems like voice-based home assistants might be here to stay. And in the view of Ikea, these devices are only set to get smarter and smarter. But before it dives into building one of its own, the furniture company wants a better idea of how everybody is feeling about such a thing, so it has launched a survey to gauge public sentiment toward artificial intelligence (AI).
Should an AI assistant in your home be male, female or gender neutral? Should it respond to your emotions and satisfy your needs without even being asked? And the big one, should it be human-like, or robot like? These are a few of the queries Ikea is exploring through a survey called "Do You Speak Human?" which was cooked up in its innovation and design lab, Space10.
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The thinking behind the survey, the company stresses, is to open a dialogue with people and take their concerns into consideration before deciding how to tackle the world of AI.
"What does a Swedish furniture retailer know about AI and conversational technology?" says Göran Nilsson, Manager IKEA Concept Innovation, Inter IKEA Systems. "Not much, but we know AI is coming and we know there are tremendous opportunities in this area to create a better service for people around the world. IKEA could accommodate people's individual needs as well as empower the 285 million people who are visually impaired using AI and conversational interfaces. We are curious to hear from the many people how they feel about AI."
Ikea has often turned an eye to the future when designing and building products, already selling furniture with built-in wireless charging, developing a concept kitchen to imagine mealtime in 2025 and tapping augmented reality for previews of its furniture. So a little further down the track, AI appearing somewhere in its suite of products might not actually be that huge a leap.
Ikea is continuously updating the results of the survey online, and you can take part yourself here.