Tech

Super-Useful AI You Should Take Advantage of Right now

Just reading the words "artificial intelligence" brings to mind some far-off dystopian future where sentient robots roam the planet violently snuffing out humanity. Hollywood and killjoys like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have done a hell of a job stoking our worst fears, but the truth is, AI is already alive and well -- and, actually, making your life way easier. Here are just a few things you should be taking advantage of.

screenshot of donotpay app
Screenshot via DoNotPay

A robot that gets you out of pricey parking tickets

Appealing a parking ticket can be such a royal pain in the ass, you'd probably rather pay up than deal with it. But now, drivers in New York and London (and soon Seattle) can offload the hassle to an AI lawyer bot. DoNotPay automatically contests questionable tickets on your behalf -- for free! Touted as "the world's first robot lawyer," the program first determines whether the ticket is eligible for appeal, then walks you through every step to effectively file one.

How successful is this robot lawyer? Well, since it was launched less than two years ago, the bot's helped win 64% of the 250,000 cases -- saving drivers roughly $4 million in the process. Fingers crossed it will eventually figure out how to get us out of jury duty, too. 

Facebook bots that shop for you and take care of customer-service hassles

Remember talking to SmarterChild on AOL Instant Messenger? Well, Facebook bots are like SmarterChild's great grandkids that actually get shit done for you. These guys are artificially intelligent entities that've been developed by companies and publishers -- from 1-800-Flowers to CNN -- to make interactions more personalized for users. So rather than call or log on to 1-800-Flowers' site to order flowers for your girlfriend, or pull up the Uber app when you need a ride, you can now simply tell Uber and 1-800-Flowers what you want within the Messenger app, and they'll take care of it. Considering the bot army is only getting bigger, we should expect to be able to get a whole lot more done in there soon.

amazon echo
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Virtual personal assistants that keep you organized

Everybody knows and loves Siri, and she can do a lot of you, but there are tons of other AI assistants that take things to the next level. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon all offer their own increasingly clever versions of Siri (Cortana, Google Now, and Alexa, respectively) to help you multitask and be more productive.

There are some exceptional productivity apps with built-in AI like Easily Do and 24me, which connect to your email accounts and do everything from automatically schedule meetings to update you on travel changes. Another noteworthy app is The Roll, which uses AI to automatically organize your phone's Camera Roll and find the best images you've taken. It runs your photos through a special algorithm that assigns a quality score to each image and organizes them by theme, doing in seconds what would otherwise take a human hours.

discover weekly playlist on spotify
Courtesy of Spotify

Algorithms that discover new music and movies for you

Do you dig your Discover Weekly playlists and Netflix "recommended for you" lineup? You can thank artificial intelligence for 'em both. By tracking your listening and viewing habits, both of these services are constantly cozying up to your tastes, employing unique, ingenious algorithms to serve up fresh picks that would otherwise require the expertise of a human music or movie savant. There are even some superlative standalone apps equipped with similar functionality, like MightyTV, which fine-tunes and personalizes Netflix/HBO/Hulu recommendations by having you swipe Tinder-style through a series of different titles. 

Coming soon: household robots that will do your chores

Even though Elon Musk has been quite vocal about the potential dangers posed by the unregulated development of AI, he's on a mission to make the most of it anyway. OpenAI, the nonprofit artificial-intelligence research firm he recently launched, is working on the technology to develop robots that could potentially take over your tedious household chores, including laundry and dishes. Yes, please.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist and really hopes Stephen Hawking is wrong about AI eventually killing off the human race.