Virtual Intelligence Vs. Artificial Intelligence: What’s The Difference?

With the rise of artificial intelligence, our definitions of certain technological processes are increasingly important.

Much like in the way virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality are often confused, so what most people call artificial intelligence can become muddled with virtual intelligence.

The difference between these two is vital.

If we hope to know which technology to use in our everyday and business lives, we must know what differentiates them. But there is a sea of badly written and, quite frankly, misinformed articles out there on the topic. How does one navigate through it? Where can the average techie find an explanation without all the programming jargon strewn all over the place?

Well, luckily for you, I’ve become well-versed in both these areas over the course of my career. So I’m here to help you make the best choice on which of the two you should watch, employ and invest in for the success of your business. Plain and simple.

Where We Are Today: Virtual Intelligence

While the term virtual intelligence may sound new to you, it’s actually been all around us for a few years now. It’s present when you open navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze, when you track your health and fitness improvements via Fitbit or Garmin, or when you listen to music on a smart speaker like Amazon’s Echo.

All these things seem intelligent when we interact with them on a daily basis. I mean, they can give us directions, recommend dietary and workout habits and even respond to spoken commands. But in actuality, these devices are just taking advantage of VI technology.

The inner workings of these devices are also a lot less smart than they might seem — though they are quite scientific. The way in which virtual intelligence works to generate results is scientific because it uses a controlled environment, receives predetermined factors and outputs calculated results. A common pattern used behind the scenes to show this is IF x, THEN y. That is, if the given input (factors) fits the predetermined criteria (controlled environment), then it gives a response (calculated response).

Calculated Damage Control

By using this method, VI simulates decision making. We say it simulates decision making because it cannot adjust it’s output as changes are developing. The factors given must be fully developed before it can recalculate the results.

For example: If you are using one of the navigation apps I mentioned earlier and you start making a wrong turn, what happens? Well, nothing. The app does not caution you that you are making a wrong turn or update its directions as you make the wrong turn. It waits until after the turn has been made to recalculate the results with the new given input. The input must be fully developed and must be fully developed before recalculation — updating directions accordingly — can be achieved.

Virtual intelligence thus falls short of error correction and instead focuses on damage control after an error has been made.

This is the vital difference in AI and VI.

Where We Want to Go: Artificial Intelligence

Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence as: “The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.”

The key word in this definition is intelligent. As we see above, virtual intelligence mimics human decision making by using math and predetermined factors. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, should be intelligent enough to make decisions as changes and events are occurring.

In the future, we hope to see things like transportation, manufacturing and other areas of everyday life become automated by artificial intelligence. This can be achieved once AI can start making human-like, intelligent decisions that adapt as problems and changes arise.

Risk of things like road traffic accidents, flaws in technologically made items and much more can be improved by a computer’s ability to compute much more than the human brain can on a conscious level.

In the future, we hope to get to a place where the use of artificial intelligence far surpasses that of the limited virtual intelligence we see around us today. But that’s not the end of the story.

Where We’re Actually Going: AI-VI Duality

While some people may whimsically believe that AI will wipe out the need for virtual intelligence altogether, this is far from the truth.

For the most part, in fact, VI is going to be around for basic utility. Things like simple web apps (blogs, small e-commerce shops, etc.), static websites (landing pages, portfolios, etc.) and even most apps don’t inherently need artificial intelligence to work well. These simpler, less complex pieces of technology should find it more cost-effective and useful to just stick with traditional VI instead.

Yes, maybe some of these applications could be improved with AI, but a vast majority of them don’t need it enough to invest in. VI may be limited, but it’s a very practical and effective way to add responsiveness to many projects.

So rather than AI wiping out VI, I think we’ll see them live in a sort of tech duality for most of the foreseen future. VI will also continue to improve behind the scenes, making its responsiveness and calculating abilities even better than they are today.

An Intelligent End

So there you have it — the real truth about virtual intelligence and how it works. Knowing what’s best to use for your project entirely depends on your use case, so talk with your team about this thoroughly before investing any cash.


Written by Terence Mills