By Allison Matyus

Comcast recently hosted a conversation with leaders from companies housed in the Chicago innovation center, mHub, about one of the most exciting advances in tech, artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is about more than robots. It’s really about using data, information and machine learning to provide seamless interactions and excellent customer experiences. AI is a range of machine applications that carry out tasks. The “intelligent” part of AI is how it can sift through and organize data and predict, react to and solve a problem. AI also is a digital dialogue that can understand how people say things and learn what their intent is.

mHub houses more than 150 manufacturing-focused businesses, along with 10 fabrication labs. Member companies range from consumer and business services to robotics and bio/health tech providers.

Because of sponsors like Comcast, mHub member companies can test their ideas using state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. Through sponsored events and discussions like this one, mHub member companies also can gain insight into the latest advances in their industries.

Piers Lingle, Comcast Cable’s Senior Vice President of Customer Experience Solutions, shared his thoughts on AI and how Comcast is employing it, and in turn, answered questions from member companies about how they should think about it.

“The most important thing we’ve been asking ourselves is “how do we use AI to solve real problems?’” Lingle said.

Lingle explained that his team’s main focus has been how to incorporate AI technology into Comcast’s business model, especially into its Customer Care operations. He said around half of customers install their own services. Autonomous customer care, including self-installation, allows customers to have more control over their experiences with Comcast’s products and services.

Aside from customer support, the company product that relies most on AI is the Xfinity X1 remote. Users can speak directly into the remote, which can understand and find content based on voice commands, ranging from genre of a TV show to lines from a movie. Lingle said the X1 voice remote solves a major problem for customers – how to search through live TV, On Demand, Netflix, YouTube and other content to find exactly what you’re looking for.

“This isn’t about creating an AI product, it’s about using AI to solve problems and give our customers the results they are looking for,” Lingle said.

AI helps satisfy customer in an age when people want immediate results. Comscore — a media measurement and analytics company — predicts that by 2020, 50 percent of searches will be using voice.

Lingle says that’s a staggering statistic, and a tall order for a very new technology.

Attendees at the mHub presentation had the opportunity to ask Lingle questions about how they should think about AI in the context of their own businesses. Lingle explained that one of the most relevant applications of AI in manufacturing is in robotics, which has great potential to increase productivity.

AI is going to be an integral part of business and society, according to Lingle. We won’t be able to go back to the way it was before it became so widespread. We’re just at the beginning of the AI era and, in an effort to deliver the best possible customer experience, Comcast is making it a priority.