AI, machine learning, wearables and VR hold exciting possibilities for the marketing space.
- AI assistants that act as constant, everyday companions offer an opportunity for marketers to access moments, content and data that was previously unavailable.
- There are still many dots amongst the data that only humans can connect, but with AI the dots may come from more varied and diverse moments, have more connections, and allow us to reach deeper, wider and further than before.
- Our challenge is to not just look at new technologies as tools to do what we are currently doing more efficiently, but to look wider at what added benefits there are that will give us different and more useful insights into our customers to optimise their experience.
In pondering how to pragmatically pursue these possibilities, we should take a human-centric look at how these technologies (and those not even thought of yet) will be integrated into the everyday lives of the people who buy our products. Rather than utilising technology for technology’s sake, consider how we can tap into new behaviours born of technological adoption to make our business insights more meaningful and authentic.
Technology is becoming a presence without a central focus. We are being encouraged to interact with technology by voice rather than screen or device, irrelevant of time or place, with effort being replaced by instinct.
Interactive, voice-activated AI personal assistants like Amazon Alexa are the most prominent manifestations of this shift. Unlike chatbots, which live on-screen and have a dedicated task, Alexa (currently embodied by the Echo or Echo Dot) lives in the home and can help out in a variety of roles. An open API allows developers to build new ‘skills’ for her, so her capabilities are continuously expanding.
The heated competition by all major IT companies to improve their AI assistants and get them into homes is about much more than the device. The software, and the voice that “disembodies” it, will become the default operating system which the majority of people will demand their devices, appliances and programs seamlessly integrate with. If Alexa wins this race (which she is currently leading) she’ll be freed from the home and welcome, if not expected, in all other areas of life.
Imbuing machines with human emotions
According to an Amazon press release close to 90% of people in the US who have purchased an Amazon Echo since 2014 say they are satisfied with the device. Early adopters have reported that they quickly start thinking of the device as a member of the family – “Even when I’ve tried to call her ‘it’, it feels wrong. She has a name. She’s Alexa.”
Research has shown that we find it easy to ‘humanise’ robots. Back in the early 1960’s, MIT computer scientist Joesph Wiezenbaum invented ELIZA – a computer therapist (or in today’s terms, chatbot therapist) whose intelligence was made up of pre-programmed questions and responses. ELIZA was tested on non-technical staff, and Wiezenbaum was astounded to discover that some ended up spending hours sharing personal problems with her and believing she could genuinely help them.
AI can help us change behaviour
Today we have a vast arsenal of digital tools and personal data collectors that AI assistants can quickly cross-process to provide even more self-help benefits. Consumer products such as Vi, an AI bio-sensing voice-activated personal fitness trainer, show that these voice-activated assistants are being configured into informed, powerful coaches and mentors that help people achieve goals. Put Vi earphones in and she will monitor your physiology, answer questions like “Vi, what’s my heart rate,” check in with questions like “Looks like you’re fatigued, are your legs done?”, and motivate you to keep going or indeed advise taking it easy.
Alexa can be programmed in a similar vein – one user programmed Alexa to help him quit smoking by telling him how many days and the amount of money saved since his last cigarette.
Capital One is working on an Alexa skill to promote saving behaviour. When asked what they did the night before, Alexa will reply with, “I don’t know what happened to you but I know what happened to your money,” and then encourage the ostensible party-goer to make better choices. With predictive intelligence, AI could become even more powerful for behaviour change and of course a narrator of actual behaviour, thus eliminating the faulty memory of real people.