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Is the world ready for artificial intelligence “concierges”?

Generative artificial intelligence, as exemplified by chatbot tools like OPenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, has opened up a new world of possibilities for users.

While Gen AI tools can be vastly informative in suggesting a great place to go for Italian food in Brooklyn or recommending three great public golf courses in Dublin, the technology pretty much stops at the “recommendation” phase.

Enter artificial intelligence agents.

Based on large language models trained on massive datasets like OpenAI’s GPT 4, AI agents act like automated assistants that do more than recommend restaurants; they can take action and book you a window table at your favorite restaurants and a lot more (especially for businesses.)

Letting machines take the lead on tasks isn’t exactly new. iRobot’s Roomba, for example, can clean up grocery store aisle spills without being asked.

Yet the vibe is growing stronger as big technology companies are starting to beat the drums over AI agents.

On a conference call last month, CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts that advanced GenAI technology enables products like Google Assistant to “act more like an agent over time . . . going beyond answers and follow through for users even more.” Meanwhile, Microsoft has begun touting its Copilot as an “everyday AI companion” for business users. Open AI is reportedly readying its AI agent applications for a new rollout.

There’s a big difference between automated assistants (that term pretty much defines what Bard and ChatbotGPT bring to the table) and automated AI agents. It also turns out there’s an equally big market for action-oriented AI agent tools, even if they’re not precisely commercially viable right now.

Pay to Play

The business world already recognizes AI agents’ emerging “task completion” power.

According to Metrigy, 85.5% of 386 participating companies consider themselves “very familiar” with generative AI assistants. An equal number of companies are also willing to pay for the technology, although they wouldn’t mind getting AI agent services for free.

“In our study, 88.3% of companies said they’d be willing to allow the use of a generative AI assistant if free,” said Beth Schultz, a research analyst at Metrigy. “The percentage drops very slightly to 86.0%, for those willing to pay for this capability . . . Of those willing to pay for generative AI assistance, 38.6% say they’ll do so for all employees and 47.4% for at least some employees.”

The vendor costs for providing AI agent services haven’t been settled yet, but companies looking for an AI agent to book business travel or handle job interviews have some cost ranges in mind.

“Our study found that 63% of companies would be willing to pay $21 to $40 per user per month for a generative AI assistant for collaboration. Nine percent of companies in this study even said they’d be willing to pay more than $40 per user monthly,” Schultz writes.

For more clarity, Microsoft’s Copilot AI assistant costs users $30 per user per month. Those costs would presumably be higher when Copilot moves from the assistant stage to the agent stage and starts elevating its task-handling game.

At AI Finance Today, we’ll keep tracking news, interviews, use cases, and product releases from the automated agent corner of the artificial intelligence industry. The technology should be a big deal in 2024, with real-world ramifications that few have a handle on yet.

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