WHEN I was small, I was fascinated by a lot of movies that show robots and computers talking and thinking like people. At that time, we knew it was science fiction.

But a lot of things we see in the movies are now becoming true. There are now machines that can read handwriting or understand spoken language and seemingly understand them enough to converse. Of course, while there are many manifestations of intelligence, being able to listen and talk is the most apparent behavior of intelligence.

And they are coming through many apps – Google android phones have Assistant, Apple Iphones have Siri, Windows users have Cortana, IBM has Watson, Alibaba has TMall Genie, Baidu has Deep Bench and Amazon has Alexa.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to become a major factor in our lives.

They will soon drive our cars, and answer our phone calls, and maybe fix our insurance, or health. They may be a factor in many of us losing our jobs as well. They will bring comfort and better lives to some, while becoming a challenge and a source of misery to others – especially those whose skills it will replace.

The best way to explore AI is to talk to your smartphone and listens to its response, or engage in chats (like in Facebook) where you chat with a computer.

Microsoft recently introduced Seeing AI, which is an app for smartphones that narrates the world around you. You can point it to a scene, and it will tell you what the scene looks like. You point it to a person, and it can tell you whether they are smiling or sulking. You point it to some words, and it will try to read them to you. If you point it to a product, it will try to read its bar code, and tell you what it is. You point it to money, and it will tell you how much it is.

Of course, not only can it read to you the words, but, if necessary it can even help you translate them.

A few months ago, we brought along a Google translate app in the smart phone that when shown some Japanese posters or signs, it immediately translated these signs from Japanese to English in real time.

A few months back, I watched a China TV show in which a robot was shown pictures of the parents, and also parents of children, and told to match which children belonged to which set of parents. The robot scored quite high, and they say there will be a new application since in China, there are millions of children that are separated from their parents, and AI will be able to scan the databases to reunite them.

What do you think?

There are endless applications we can think about in which AI can help improve our lives.