Artificial intelligence (AI) grew like crazy in 2017, and was the number one topic many executives point to as the hottest tech trend of the year. Next year it will mushroom even more, and 2018 will be a breakout year for consumer brands using chatbots to interact with customers. That's according to Tobias Goebel, senior director of emerging technologies at call center solutions company Aspect Software. Here are his words about what you can expect to see going forward when it comes to AI and chatbot technology.

Big data and customer analytics will make chatbots more like humans.

With most emerging technologies, the first applications are usually built as siloes, and not integrated with existing infrastructure, often resulting in suboptimal user experiences. In 2018, we should see much better integration with customer data and customer analytics, bringing in customer history, behavioral patterns, and big data into chatbot interactions. We will also see more applications for customer engagement integrated with the enterprise contact center with chatbots and live agents working together to serve the customer. The result will be more personalized and productive interactions.

While we should see more innovators begin to embrace the technology, we'll also see most companies continue to wait and watch for the early results of these first innovators' hi-profile deployments. As Amara's Law tells us: we tend to overestimate the impact of a new technology in the short term, and underestimate its impact in the long term so it will likely take three to five years more for chatbots to become commonplace in most companies' customer engagement strategies.

We haven't even scratched the surface for the enterprise potential of AI.

We are now entering a new era in which tech companies are making a serious effort to teach computers how to speak 'human' using human language, which is a shift like we've rarely seen before. The fact that I can sit on my couch at home and ask Amazon Echo to dim the lights or check my bank account balance simply through a voice dialog, is game-changing. Man-machine interaction will become dramatically simpler and more efficient over the next few years.

Yes, AI could someday be a threat to humans, but regular people don't need to worry about it. 

It's in the DNA of the human animal to ignore threats that aren't imminently life threatening. That's one of the reasons why there isn't broad global urgency to get a collective agreement on climate change. AI is in a similar category. It isn't hard to see that exponential improvements in AI are entirely possible, and exponential growth of anything is now well understood to be "harmless" at first, but overwhelming eventually.

Yes, AI could someday be a threat to humans, and it makes sense to start thinking about how to prevent that from happening. However, this is nothing for the average person to be concerned about, and it won't affect us in the next few years or probably even decades. Advancement in the field of AI will happen either way, whether we intentionally ignore it or actively work against a possible threat. The history of mankind (and Andy Grove, former Intel CEO), has taught us that "in technology, what can be done will be done."