It got me thinking this week….

I had a bit of a scare this week and it got me thinking!!!   Thinking about what until very recently I took completely for granted and also the thinking about how technology could step in to help if it comes to the crunch.

So let me explain…and please forgive this rather personal reflection on a blog that in the past, I have tended to write from a rather business orientated perspective.

This week, I ‘enjoyed’ the not so pleasant experience of watching my vision slip away as my retina gradually detached itself from the back of my eye. As the minutes crawled past while I waited to see the ophthalmic specialist in A&E, I viewed, with a macabre fascination, a pool of inky black nothingness fill my eye from the bottom up.  Of course, I later learnt that nothing was filling my eye; it was the visual effect of the retina peeling away from the top of my eye which was causing my vision to disappear.

But fortunately for me, fate was on my side.  I happened to be at home when the first symptoms occurred – lots of black spots, flashing lights and a greying on the periphery of my vision – all very subtle at first but as they progressed sufficient to prompt a Google Search (thank you Google!) and at first a rather reluctant visit to A&E on a sunny bank holiday.  And another stroke of good luck, I live in a city with a specialist eye hospital where my symptoms were quickly identified and I was rushed into an emergency operation to try to fix to detachment; a procedure with an 85% chance of success.  The rehabilitation  includes – in my case – sitting with my head fixed in position for 7 days (part of the procedure is to fill your eye with gas and you have to remain pretty well static for a week so that the gas bubble presses against the damaged part of the retina to help prompt the healing process).  But another bit of good news, I’m allowed to look straight ahead and watch TV – which to me translates to looking straight ahead at my computer screen (100% touch typing though – no looking down!!).  And the final bit of good news, this is just one eye and I can still see out the other.

But, it got me thinking.  What if it doesn’t work? What if it happens again…to the other eye?  Ummm, then how would you cope?

Well, plenty of other people – far braver than me – do cope but as a technologist it got me thinking about all the areas where NLI would become essential; not just a nice to have.  Like speaking to my personal assistant so let’s refer to it by name – and asking our natural language app what time is it, what’s the weather like, what’s in my calendar.  Or to call my friends or work colleagues – you suddenly become so isolated when you can’t see to find a phone number.  And it’s so much more pleasant to speak to our natural language app in natural language and get a conversational response.

And, let me confess right now – while I’ve been sat perfectly static with my eyes closed because I can’t take the opaque flashing lights of what is hopefully a recovering eye – it’s actually quite comforting and fun to ask our natural language app to tell me a joke or two.  So what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?  Try asking our natural language app.

And now I can see it’s not just fun or a bit of time saving for a busy business man – NLI really can be a life changing experience of people; not bad for a technologist !

Andy, who lives with his family in the UK, is Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions. A regular speaker at industry conferences and events, Andy delivers insight on the rise of AI, the challenges businesses face and the future of intelligent conversational applications.

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