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December 12, 2018updated 03 Jan 2019 2:28pm

AI Christmas ahead: How artificial intelligence is quietly shaping our festive plans

By Lucy Ingham

An AI Christmas may sound like something from the future, but according to research by Accenture, artificial intelligence (AI) now plays a role in festive planning for the majority of UK residents.

In a survey of 2,000 people living in the UK, the company found that over two thirds would be making use of AI in at least one Christmas-related activity.

However, notably the majority of people – 60% – do not realise they are using AI due to the unseen manner in which it is integrated into applications. Only 24% said they planned to use AI, despite many more doing so.

“AI has become part of everyday life for many people, albeit often without them knowing what’s under the bonnet of their technology,” said Emma Kendrew, Artificial Intelligence Lead at Accenture Technology UK.

“However, trust issues still exist that are preventing some people using technology that has an AI label on it.”

AI Christmas: How the technology is being used in the UK

The survey found that 70% of us will be making use of e-commerce platforms for Christmas shopping that are built on AI. In this space, while there are visible AI technologies, such as Enki for ASOS, much of the use of AI happens behind-the-scenes where the average use is unaware of its existence.

A similar phenomenon happens in music or video streaming services, which will be used by 67% this Christmas, providing recommendations using AI to help users choose what media to consume.

For many of us, Christmas also means a trip home or to friends, and 30% of us make use of AI-powered travel apps or smart cars to make the journey.

In terms of AI applications that we are actually aware of, voice assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant is the most prominent, with 19% of UK residents planning to use the technology.

User concerns over AI

Despite its role in festive planning, many of us remain unconvinced about the trustworthiness of AI.

Just 20% said they would trust AI for Christmas planning, while 31% believe it would be unhelpful and 25% are concerned about ethical issues.

For Accenture, an AI Christmas shows how the technology can be trusted.

“AI takes some mundane chores off our hands and frees us up to focus on more important things – not just at Christmas but all year round,” said Kendrew.

“Part of bridging that trust gap is showing people the many benefits that AI can bring – and playing a prominent role in so many Christmas celebrations could do a lot to change perceptions.”

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