Tonight is your friend's birthday party. You've forgotten to get a gift, and you have to work late.
The solution is in the palm of your hand. With your smartphone, you can ask MyKai, a mobile tool that connects to your bank account, how much you can spend. You can then send a quick text message to 1-800 Flowers for a bouquet of flowers. Then, you can tap on your friend's address in Facebook messenger to summon an Uber driver to take you to the party.
Seamless consumer experiences such as that are becoming the new norm. Products and services custom-tailored to individual needs are no longer a luxury; they're inexpensive, easy-to-use, and readily available to anyone with a mobile device and Internet access.
But, today's developments are just a glimpse of what we'll enjoy tomorrow. Thanks to rapid innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), we'll soon have an army of robotic personal assistants at our beck and call. Our fridges will stock themselves, our home entertainment systems will read our minds, and our digital helpers will be skilled conversationalists—remembering context clues and earlier chats.
While AI has been around since a conference at Dartmouth College in 1956, in recent years, advances have made it possible so that soon it's about to make our lives a lot easier and more affordable.
Take the clothing industry. Up until recently, only celebrities and industry titans could afford a bespoke suit. Now, modern technology has made individualized apparel production at a massive scale not just possible, but profitable. At Acustom Apparel, customers are ushered into a room decked out with high-definition sensors; within seconds, the sensors record every contour of the customer's body. The resulting 3D model is used to make customized shirts, suits, and more—for a fraction of the price of traditional tailoring.
In the future, mainstream retailers will join the trend, bringing custom-made suits to the masses. The Brooks Brothers website already allows shoppers to digitally render their own made-to-order look, customizing everything from the fabric to the collar style.
There's a similar trend in transportation. A decade ago, private limousine services cost hundreds of dollars per hour. Today, people can use car-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to get chauffeured around their city for just a few dollars. The airline industry will soon have the digital infrastructure to automatically rebook seats or reserve hotel rooms for travelers in the event of a canceled flight.