In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has gone from a futuristic technology to something we use every day, embedded within voice assistants, Netflix and smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo.

But what is it? AI is a somewhat nebulous term, but it broadly means a program or machine able to learn from experience. Subsets and offshoots of AI include machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, and cognitive computing.

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It’s worth noting that AI has its limitations. It learns from data and thus reflects any inaccuracies in the data in its results. AI is good at doing clearly defined tasks, but unable to master ‘task transfer’ – it is very specialized. The system that detects fraud cannot drive a car, for example. AI is also incapable of making its own autonomous decisions (probably a good thing, many would argue).

In this guide, we’ll look at some of its uses, the differences between some of the terms outlined above, its advantages and the challenges associated with AI. We’ll cover what the biggest tech companies are doing within the field of AI, and some of the leading UK AI start‑ups to watch. Finally, we’ll look at the future of AI. Could we have AI managing vast swathes of our lives before long? Is it even possible we’ll form relationships with AI?

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