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In this fast-paced, tech-driven world that seems to get more and more advanced while we blink our eyes, AI – Artificial Intelligence is one area where we are seeing new advancements and major growth quickly and ever so impressively. Hands-free, super-smart, and carefully connected, AI voice assistants are all the rage, prompting consumers from all walks of life to forgo their former modes of communication, information gathering, and control over their multiple high-tech gadgets, devices, and gizmos. And the potential the future holds for these nifty voice assistants is exponential.

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Most folks who are even just the slightest bit tech-savvy are well-aware of popular voice assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, and many of those people are regular users of the modern AI-based technology. Essentially, as per Business Insider, "Voice assistants are software programs that respond to voice commands in order to perform a range of tasks." The sophistication put in by the developers equal simplicity for the user.

The fun and freedom associated with using these voice-activated assistants give users the flexibility to multi-task, gain knowledge, take control over their homes, or simply call a loved one, among thousands of other uses. The widespread capabilities of such devices are always expanding, and so is the number of tech-hungry consumers who are in awe of their many modern marvels. Are you one of them? If not, you are likely to jump on the bandwagon soon.

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According to Business Insider, "65% of U.S. smartphone owners were employing voice assistants in 2015, up significantly from 30% just two years prior. Consumers are also eagerly adopting speaker-based voice assistants, with shipments of Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers expected to climb more than threefold to 24.5 million in 2017." With such a great number of people using voice assistants presently and the many improvements that are sure to come in the near future, these already-staggering statistics are sure to continue to see impressive and steady growth.

Naturally, every invention has its strengths and weaknesses, plusses and minuses, and Business Insider notes that along with the innovation of something life-altering comes room for improvement. There are certain "technological shortcomings preventing voice assistants from hitting their true potential," notes Business Insider.

But as they exist today, most would argue that AI voice assistants are pretty darn amazing. And if the companies that create and build them realize and improve upon these said "shortcomings," the newer versions will be sure to give users even more bang for their buck with technological capabilities beyond our wildest imaginations.

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For more information on voice assistants and to read "The Voice Assistant Landscape Report" from Business Insider's BI Intelligence, click here. Or, ask your voice assistant to download it for you!

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

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The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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