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UAE consumers have high appetite for AI: study

Consumers in the UAE are readier than consumers in many other countries to adopt devices and services powered by artificial intelligence (AI), according to findings in a new study by leading professional services firm Accenture.

Based on a survey of 26,000 consumers in 26 countries, the 2017 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey found that three-fourths (76 per cent) of UAE respondents are comfortable with an AI application responding to their query, while more than two-thirds (68 per cent) have interacted with computer-based applications in the past 12 months. These percentages are significantly higher than the survey’s global averages of 44 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively.

AI anytime

Eight in ten (82 per cent) UAE respondents cited the availability of AI anytime as a key reason they prefer it to human interaction, whereas three-fourths (74 per cent) said AI engagements are faster and more polite than human interactions.

These findings are in line with some of the innovative applications and aspirations for AI in the area.

In Dubai, for example, AI will provide the intelligence for one of the world’s first flying taxi services powered by a drone, set to go live by the end of this year.

Also, the UAE AI/Robotics Good Award is fostering creative innovations that will deliver life-changing benefits in healthcare, education and humanitarian aid.

The Accenture study says that these experiences are spurring demand in the country for smart devices and new technologies.

In high demand

The research identified augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) as driving up purchase intent for smartphones, smart glasses and VR headsets. In the UAE, the demand for these technologies now stands at 68 per cent, 55 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively, compared to the averages of 56 per cent, 42 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively.

The two reasons UAE respondents gave most often for this demand were an interest in learning new skills and techniques using AR and VR (cited by 36 per cent) and meeting others virtually (34 per cent).

The research polled consumers about their intentions to buy digital voice-enabled assistants. Powered by AI, the products recognise a human’s voice commands such as “Turn on the light” and “Play music” and answer questions, including “What time is it?” and “What is the temperature outside?”

While only four percent of all respondents said they own such a device, two-thirds (65 per cent) of owners said they use their device on a regular basis, showing strong acceptance of this new technology.

 More comfortable

“The fact that more and more UAE consumers are comfortable using voice assistants, gesture control and eye movement on mobile devices and at home is encouraging for the devices and services markets ‒ and is helping make this the year when artificial intelligence goes mainstream,” said Gerardo Canta, who leads Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology operating group in the Middle East, Africa, Russia and Turkey.

The report also found that UAE respondents are more interested in hyper-personalised services than their global counterparts, with nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of UAE consumers saying that tracking online behaviour and shopping history helps provide them with a more personalised experience, compared with only 40 per cent of all respondents globally.