One of the greatest misunderstandings when it comes to artificial intelligence is that it is about to fix every problem in your organisation. 

Not because one software package can do the job, but because people imagine that AI solutions are equally mature across all business activities.

Sadly, that’s not true. At least not yet. Right now, the most successful AI applications are quick fixes to localised problems. Boring? Not at all. Pragmatic, fast and relatively cheap? Definitely.

Ready for your close up?

Microsoft recently addressed one of my personal gripes relating to video conferences. Namely, the way that I end up looking off-camera during the call.  

I sometimes move the computer to make space for a document or to type a message to other participants. In gallery mode I often fail to notice that I’m slipping out of view. 

Nothing worse than ending a call to discover that only your forehead was visible to the camera – and your co-workers.

The fix, at least according to Microsoft, is clear. Using the “artificial intelligence capabilities of the Microsoft SQ1 processor” the software ensures that you always appear to be looking directly at the camera, even when you aren’t.  That’s it. Problem solved.

Here’s what I love. 

First, Microsoft has fixed a difficult problem. Getting the camera to follow your eyes is harder than it sounds, especially using the processing chip on a laptop. Admittedly this feature is only available on some of Microsoft’s high-end Surface devices but that will change soon.

Next, it’s incredibly useful and accessible. Millions of people may eventually benefit from better communication during on-screen conversations.

It’s also unfussy. It just gets to work quietly in the background, improving, but not disrupting the user experience. 

Stay in view and in touch

And it’s timely. Stuck at home, unable to visit friends or return to the office, millions of people now rely on video conferencing to keep in touch with loved ones and work colleagues.

Above all, it shows how AI is at its most useful when it improves, rather than transforms our lives. This may not be the stuff of hi-tech Netflix blockbuster, but as we move into a world where the snake-oil AI hype is getting louder and louder, there are plenty of areas of our lives where the technology is making a real difference. 

You just need to know where to look.