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I’ve never been a fan of administrative work. Simple things like scheduling appointments, filling out application forms, comparing, or buying online would often find their way to the bottom of my to-do list. But we live in interesting times, and so my procrastination may just become a thing of the past.

Like the smartphone revolution, very soon, we might witness a breakthrough where personal AI agents that act on our behalf become technologically feasible and commercially viable, finding their way into everyone’s pockets just as our smartphones did. 

ChatGPT is a prime example of how ground-breaking developments in AI can rapidly integrate into our everyday lives, significantly changing the way we interact with technology in a matter of months.

In this piece, we explore personal AI agents and their implications on digital products and services.

A glimpse into personal AI agents

Imagine personal AI agents as a version of ChatGPT, drawing upon a controlled set of your personal data, or a 'personal data box', to interact with the digital world. This personal data box, under your strict control and curation, would contain a variety of information – your personal details, preferences, past choices and interactions, and more. It serves as the AI agent's knowledge base, allowing it to understand your needs, preferences, and habits and act as your personal assistant, mediator, or even your advocate in the digital realm. Crucially, it's designed to be secure and private, with the user having complete control over what data is shared and with whom.

To make this tangible, imagine an AI agent on your phone that has access to your calendar, flight preferences, and past travel details. You tell it you need to book a flight - and it handles the rest, drawing on your data to make informed decisions about when you prefer to travel, which airlines you favor, and even which seats you like best.

Or perhaps it could compare and choose the best insurance options based on your needs, suggest educational resources tailored to your interests and career goals, or even craft and send job applications for you with minimal supervision. At work, you may also use them to take on tedious tasks or multiply your productivity.

The user experience offered by personal AI agents could far surpass our current methods of interacting with digital products and services. It's similar to how executives or public figures delegate mundane tasks to their assistants. We'll soon be doing the same, except our delegates will be digital. “Sign-up with Google” feature is a current example that shows how we are happy to delegate repetitive tasks to computer services we trust.

With this understanding of personal AI agents and their advantages over current business touchpoints, let's reflect on the implications that an AI-mediated world might have.

What would this mean for digital sales and services?

In the past two decades, businesses have embraced the digital revolution, shifting their services from physical locations to online platforms. Today, it's a given that any business, be it a bank, insurer, or hospital, will have a digital presence through a website or app. These platforms have been meticulously designed for human interaction, with the goal of providing users easy access to products and services.

However, the emergence of personal AI agents may dramatically shift this dynamic. Suddenly, businesses would find themselves interacting not just with human users, but also with AI agents, a new user group with unique skills and abilities beyond human capabilities. What is considered 'user-friendly' for a human user may not necessarily be so for an AI agent.

For businesses to successfully navigate this AI-centric world, they need to make sure their digital services are easily understood and prioritized by AI agents. While they can understand natural language like we do, their way of processing information is different. AI agents will depend less on visuals, layout, or persuasive language, and instead emphasize data and in-depth feature comparisons, given their ability to rapidly process and analyse vast quantities of unstructured information.

I'm fascinated by the idea of a personal agent mediating a conversation between you and multiple businesses at the same time, for example, when looking for car insurance. As an intermediary, your agent will convey your requirements and questions to multiple providers and gather their offers, questions, and responses in real-time (also provided by different AI business agents). Your digital assistant will be able to manage multiple conversations at the same time until it collects the relevant information for you to take the final decision.

Man typing on computer

Images by William Terra

The power and challenges of hyper-personalization

The emergence of AI mediators may also bring a shift in focus from marketing and smooth user experience design to the quality of a company's offerings. AI agents, capable of comparing a multitude of products and services based on user preferences, could render even minor advantages in price, functionality, or convenience as crucial factors in gaining market share. In this new landscape, the genuine value of a product or service would speak louder than any advertising pitch. In such a fiercely competitive environment, those businesses that succeed will be the ones capable of crafting ultra-personalized value propositions tailored to each individual, effectively creating a market segment of one.

To provide this personal service, businesses will need data, but acquiring it could be challenging when interacting with AI agents instead of real people. Businesses won't control the communication channel (unlike today's websites), and won’t be able to extract behavioral insights from our online interactions. 

Suddenly, companies will need to negotiate with our AI agents and incentivize human feedback and data sharing through discounts or reward points to get the data they need, so that they can tailor their offers to us. With an increase in offerings and fewer differentiation possibilities between brands, consumers may regain some control over their personal data and may be able to monetize it.

What’s to come
Hand holding a pass mobile with cartoon wearing headset

In conclusion, we are on the brink of a profound shift in the landscape of our digital interactions. Personal AI agents promise to fundamentally change the way we engage with digital products and services, bringing in a new era of ultra-personalization, efficiency, and convenience.

However, this transition also presents new challenges for businesses: designing 'AI-friendly' services, maintaining direct communication with consumers for essential feedback, and incentivizing data sharing in a landscape dominated by AI mediators. 

The winners in this fast-evolving arena will be those that can effectively navigate these hurdles. This will involve getting to know better than others the customer sitting behind the AI, pioneering innovative ways of engagement for users and personal agents alike, and providing superior, tailor-made services that digital assistants won't be able to resist.

Just as the iPhone brought business interactions into our pockets, personal AI agents are set to take over these interactions entirely. The age of AI-mediated interactions is around the corner, get ready!

Pablo Ferreras

Interaction Designer

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