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How to profit from chatbots, big data and virtual reality

More of our online interaction with customer services is probably not going be with a human, but more likely with an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot.

Investors looking to benefit from this in 2017 need to know which businesses will make the best use of AI and the vast amounts of data needed to drive the technology, according to Beijia Ma, equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch.

"Big data is the input for things like artificial intelligence, which Amazon tends to dominate in, and it's really AI that is making us smarter about what to do with the big data (and) how do we actually improve our goods and services" she told CNBC's Street Signs.

"We're still looking at the providers of AI software. Primarily the Googles, Amazons, Microsofts and IBMs of the world who are very strong at that, but I think increasingly so we're going to be focusing on the holders of data which essentially is the feed stock that goes into things like artificial intelligence."

Soon, investors will be assessing companies and sectors based on how well they can collect data and how they can use this data for their core business, according to Ma.

Daniel Hegarty, CEO and founder of digital mortgage broker habito, says AI in the form of chatbots (a program which consumers engage with through messaging services) will become mainstream next year.

"Expect them to become more polished and human-like, and even more ingrained in the fabric of our daily lives – whether you're ordering groceries from across the kitchen using Amazon's Alexa or transferring money to a family member using a Facebook chatbot," he said in a press statement.

"Bots offer a comfortable conversational paradigm that allows us to get directly to what we need, yet still allow us to interact with them passively. While there's still some hesitation around AI amongst consumers, there is a natural adoption curve of all new technologies."

The success of artificial intelligence in 2017 may depend on how well it is implemented, according to Frank Lansink, European CEO of tech company IPsoft.

"If implemented properly, AI and human beings will work together to provide better outcomes. It is critical that a thoughtful and well informed approach to implementing AI technology is needed," he said in a press statement.

"Executives must act now to educate themselves and their industries on where intelligent technologies can complement creative human skills in order to deliver a hyper-productive workforce."

Will the next social network be virtual?

Several virtual reality devices were released in 2016 and while video games are already utilizing VR at the moment, the next tech sector to implement the tech could be social media, according to Ma.

"Looking at millennials, roughly 90 percent have at least one social network account under their name and 71 percent have two or more," she said.

"Virtual reality and augmented reality could be the most social platform in the future."

Ma suggested Infineon and Nvidia as attractive stocks in this sector.

"(Nvidia) are essentially creating new end markets for themselves and I don't think the market's fully pricing in the potential within autonomous driving as well as VR just yet," she said.

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