Robots taking over the world? Well, 24 percent of 6,000 consumers in six countries expressed this sentiment during a Pegasystems survey about artificial intelligence as a key customer engagement tool.

Only one in three (36 percent) are comfortable with businesses using AI to engage with them–even if this typically results in a better customer experience. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) indicated some sort of fear about AI.

Pegasystems, a software company that empowers customer engagement at the world’s leading enterprises, recently announced new artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic automation capabilities in its customer relationship management (CRM) offerings that enable businesses to optimize their sales and customer service effectiveness with desktop analytics and machine learning.

The new study revealed that consumers are confused about what artificial intelligence (AI) really does, resulting in misplaced fears that inhibit them from embracing AI-based technology. These fears, the study shows, are often eased once they gain firsthand AI experience–which ironically many people enjoy today without even realizing it.

Consider that only 34 percent of respondents thought they had directly experienced AI, but when asked about the technologies they use in their daily lives, the survey found that 84 percent of respondents actually use at least one AI-powered service or device–such as virtual home assistants, intelligent chatbots, or predictive product suggestions. When asked to identify AI-powered devices, only 41 percent knew Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home run on AI.

Most people hold a basic misunderstanding of AI, the study says; 72 percent confidently claimed that they understand AI, but far fewer could correctly define what it is or what it can do. For example, relatively few knew that AI has the basic ability to interpret or understand speech (37 percent) or mimic humans (35 percent), while only half could identify some of the most common AI capabilities, like solving problems (50 percent) and learning (57 percent).

“Though AI has been around for more than 30 years, it has now evolved to the point that businesses can engage with each individual consumer on a real-time, one-to-one basis,” said Don Schuerman, SVP of product marketing and CTO, Pegasystems. “But our study suggests the recent hype is causing some confusion and fear among consumers, who may not really understand how it’s already being used and helping them every day. Businesses need to focus on using AI to develop applications that provide real value for customers to improve their experiences, rather than overhyping the technology itself.”

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