Scott McBride
Sep 29, 2017

Living in an 'AI summer'

IPG Mediabrands' APAC digital officer opines on what AI is and what it will be.

McBride speaking to Amazon's Alexa during his Spikes presentation.
McBride speaking to Amazon's Alexa during his Spikes presentation.

The concept of AI has been around, one could argue, since ancient times, as mythical legend or a desire to connect with the ‘gods’.

The actual field of AI was founded at a workshop on the campus of Dartmouth College in the United States during the summer of 1956. That said, some sources note that following World War Two, some independent work began on ‘intelligent machines’, which were possibly the genius of ‘intelligent agents’ in the computer science fraternity. Alan Turing, the English mathematician, may have been the first to publically venture into the field when he gave a lecture on AI in 1947, in which he stated that AI was “best researched by programming computers versus building machines”.

Whichever route to its existence you prefer to travel, there is no question that we are currently bathing in the beauty of a fully blown AI summer. We have academia to thank for supplying the science that has led to today’s powerful computing technology. To put that into context, look at the 1969 Apollo 11 rocket, which had a staggering guidance system memory base of 64 KB and a processor speed of 0.043 MHz. Compare it to the newly launched iPhone X, which is punching out 256GB of memory and over 2.5 MHz of processing power.

Every silver lining has a cloud, and with AI there is certainly a temptation to use “tech for the sake of tech”. Although Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said “it’s actually pretty amazing when you think about how much of the physical stuff we have doesn’t need to be physical”, I lean towards the design ethos of Charles Eames who said “recognising the need is the primary condition for design”. As marketers this is our burden to carry. In order to utilize AI to its full potential it should, and must, provide a seamless and valuable user experience.

In this way, as smart devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Hello Egg, plus chatbots like Kia’s Nirobot and Durex’s Rexbot become mainstream, AI will help consumers to start taking ultimate control. In the words of Marissa Mayer, “[as a consumer you will get] what you want, when you want it. As opposed to everything you could ever want, even when you don’t”. 

To the naysayers, consider this: in a mere 1,095 days (i.e. by 2020) Gartner believes that 30 percent of searches will occur without a screen. That means one true product ‘answer’ rather than dozens of blue links. For any search practitioners  currently reaching for an oxygen mask, this doesn’t mean the death of search engine marketing—but it does completely change the game.

As with all things ‘technology and data’, however, there is always a 'watch out'. Chrysler effectively demonstrated some of the security concerns associated with AI in the summer of 2015, when Wired Magazine Technology Journalist Andy Greenberg enlisted the help of a couple of tech people to successfully hack a Jeep Cherokee as it drove down the highway, driving it into a ditch.

For the markets out there looking to harness the valuable power of AI, here are my top tips:

  • Think of the context of your brand, experience and the consumer relationship
  • Identify the data you can leverage and augment
  • Create or partner with advance interfaces and creators
  • Leverage AI to personalise and add value to the experience journey.

Scott McBride is chief digital officer at IPG Mediabrands APAC. He spoke at Spikes Asia 2017 on Thursday on this topic.

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