“The thing about artificial intelligence is that everyone knows it’s revolutionizing things, but no one really knows what it is.” This is how Qualia CTO, Lucas Hansen, kicked off a candid conversation about artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on real estate with CEO of OJO Labs, John Berkowitz.

The pair used the stage at the Future of Real Estate Summit last week to discuss misconceptions around AI and what real estate professionals can expect from this rapidly-advancing technology in the years to come.

What is artificial intelligence? 

Berkowitz noted that AI can be grouped into 2 categories: “general intelligence” and “narrow AI.”

“General intelligence” is what Berkowitz referred to as “scary AI.” With this type of technology, computers completely replace humans. “This  is the Terminator stuff you see in the movies,” he said. While this type of AI is prevalent in Hollywood, there aren’t any real world applications of general intelligence yet. 

“Narrow AI” does not replace humans completely, but instead automates certain repeatable tasks. This type of AI uses applied mathematics to recognize patterns and automate decisions. 

OJO Labs uses “narrow AI” to help consumers during the home buying process. The company uses AI to analyze consumer data and help homebuyers make better real estate purchase decisions. “Our chatbots act as digital advisors to help consumers access information ahead of interacting with a service professional,” Berkowitz said. 

Artificial intelligence is not new

Berkowitz and Hansen next turned their attention to the validity of AI as a market-changer. “The most dangerous thing you can do in AI is assume that nothing is really happening and that this is just another hype wave,” Berkowitz said of skepticism surrounding AI.

Berkowitz cited 3 areas that are coming together that position AI perfectly to take off now:

  1. An incredible amount of data. According to Berkowitz, we have more than 2.7 Zettabytes of stored, usable data in our digital universe. That’s equivalent to a trillion Gigabytes of data. In other words: a lot of data.  
  1. Serious computing power. The average computer is infinitely more powerful than computers of the past, and supercomputers like IBM’s “Summit” can procession more than 200,000 trillion calculations per second
  1. The data science field is exploding. Data scientists are more abundant than ever before thanks to enticing salaries and an exponential number of job opportunities. “Today, it’s cooler and more lucrative to be a data scientist in the Bay Area than it is to be an NFL football player,” Berkowitz said. 

These 3 components are also accelerating the rate of AI development more rapidly than ever before. Hansen noted that even during his data science and AI courses at Stanford University several years ago, the curriculum would become out-of-date overnight due to the speed of change in the field. 

AI’s application in real estate

Right now, Berkowitz says the impact of AI is not too significant or far-reaching for real estate. AI is aiding the home search process through the use of algorithms that predict consumer preferences. The technology is also speeding up transactions through the automation of certain administrative functions like email follow ups and other repeatable tasks. 

To avoid fear-based reactions to AI, Berkowitz encourages real estate professionals to stay up-to-date by asking questions to sort the real AI from the gimmicky AI. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Berkowitz noted. “The more questions you ask about how something is ‘AI powered’ the more you’ll understand the different variations of AI and how you should adapt.” 

Overall, Berkowitz believes that in specific situations, AI will help real estate professionals make more decisions and those decisions will be made better and faster. “If you wake up every day and do the exact same thing, you should be worried about AI,” Berkowitz said. “On the other hand, if you have variety in your day, AI is a tool that will empower you.”