Imagine having a conversation with a friend and asking them a question, only to have them stare at you silently for three seconds before answering. Would the conversation feel natural? Or would you feel awkward, like you’d done something wrong? Most importantly, would you do it again? 

Today, millions of people happily chat with Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant, Alexa.  On of my favorite Amazonian stories is the power of timely response. When the Echo was under development less than five years ago, voice recognition technology suffered an average delay in response time of almost three seconds. The team set a goal of two seconds for Echo, and was eventually able to bring it down to below 1.5 seconds before launch – a critical factor in the success of a device that has no screen or other interface to fall back on. Either people can talk to Alexa as they would a person, or the device is a failure.

As the Head of Research & Design for Alexa Devices at Amazon, I could not be more proud of Alexa’s success. Alexa shines as just one example of AI playing an ever more capable role across user interfaces (UI). 

As AI matures, many of the problems that hindered adoption in the past are disappearing. It’s now consistently being used to add frictionless intelligence to people’s interactions with technology, creating opportunities to make any interface both simple and smart – driving wider, faster adoption of technology, and providing better outcomes for people. 

In 2017 more than 5,400 IT and business executives, 79% agree that AI will help accelerate technology adoption throughout their organizations. In short, AI is poised to enable companies to improve the experience and outcome for every critical customer interaction. AI already plays a variety of roles throughout the user experience (UX). 

At the simplest level, it curates content for people, like the mobile app Spotify suggesting new music based on previous listening choices. In a more significant role, AI applies machine learning to guide actions toward the best outcome. Farmers are improving yields by implementing AI-enabled crop management systems: Blue River Technology’s tools combine computer vision and machine learning with their robotic systems to apply plant-by-plant fertilizer wherever needed. 

Using advanced algorithms means ‘LettuceBot’ not only takes care of pesky weeds among the lettuce crop, but also addresses growing conditions that are less than optimal – like identifying sprouts that are too close to each other, and removing the one least likely to thrive.

And at the height of sophistication, AI orchestrates. It collaborates across experiences and channels, often behind the scenes, to accomplish tasks. AI not only curates and acts based on its experiences, but also learns from interactions to help suggest and complete new tasks.

Designers are rapidly transitioning from traditional interfaces in to specialists in Visual, Voice, Sound, Gesture and Thought Interface design. 


Despite skepticism of AI as just another technology buzzword, its momentum is very real. 87% of executives we surveyed report they will invest extensively in AI-related technologies over the next three years.