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It’s Been a Good Year for… AI


LBB’s Liam Smith chats robots with J. Walter Thompson, Fireworx and POSSIBLE

It’s Been a Good Year for… AI

While the robots haven’t exactly taken over the world yet, 2017 has seen artificial intelligence become a major player in and outside the advertising industry. From CANAL+ and BETC’s bible-slinging ‘AiMEN’ to 360i’s chatty Albert Einstein chatbot, it seems like everyone wants to get a piece of the AI pie. Not to mention Google and Amazon invading living spaces with the likes of the Echo and Home.

Digital agencies have been enjoying a wealth of new avenues to explore, producing ‘Virtual Agents’ (a computer generated, animated, artificial intelligence virtual character) and chatbots to connect with users. “A lot of digital agencies are considering how to better find or communicate with consumers, to re-engage them with brands, or find out things about consumers that brands weren’t already aware of,” says POSSIBLE creative technology director Stuart Thorne. “I like AKQA’s endeavour from earlier this year to create a system that discovers new or different groups of consumers for brands, by interpreting online content.”

Outside of chatbots and virtual assistants, advertisers have even managed to utilise AI for good causes. Baidu and F5’s Know You Again project, which picked up a Silver Pharma Lion at Cannes, created smart glasses for Alzheimer’s sufferers in China. The glasses harnessed a range of AI technologies including deep learning, voice biometrics and facial recognition, to allow sufferers to recognise loved ones. J. Walter Thompson’s European Director, Innovation Group Marie Stafford calls it “a great example of how AI can help enhance lives and a counter to some of the more fearful narratives that surround technologies like voice and facial recognition”.

Voice technology in particular has seen rapid growth and investment, driven in part by advances in speech recognition from Google, Apple and Microsoft. But according to Daniel Smith, MD of marketing agency Fireworx, it is still in its infancy. “It's really still the mobile phone industry that is leading the way, especially Apple’s Siri. Issuing voice commands on our phones has really helped consumers to embrace voice AI technology, which is paving the way for brands to communicate with their customers in a whole new way. Smart devices like Amazon Echo (or ‘Alexa’) and Google Home are the next step for brands as consumers begin to power the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) with their voices.”

And while consumers are warming to the idea of speaking to their phone/car/microwave, voice technology has a while to go. J. Walter Thompson and Mindshare’s Speak Easy research into voice technology this year found that voice tech users have high expectations; anything less than human level conversation is a disappointment. “They already want brands to have unique voices and personalities: 74% of regular voice users say this is an expectation,” notes Marie. “The goal for brands is natural, engaging, human-like conversation: 84% of regular users told us if their voice assistants could understand them and speak back to them as well as a human can, they would use them all the time. Conversation design and branding will rise up the marketer’s agenda as a result.”

So how’s 2018 looking for our robot friends? Marie has no doubt that AI will continue to dominate the agenda, with even the UK government publishing its plans to develop the sector. Voice is likely to continue growing and migrate outside the home, to cars and to the workplace, and will also expand in search and e-commerce. “More generally, consumers will become more familiar with AI, as they are exposed to more devices, products and services powered by it,” she says. “Algorithms will play an increasing role in our lives, tailoring content and experiences and making bespoke recommendations. Voice and personal assistants will get smarter, more capable, and more trusted, although privacy issues will still raise concern, particularly as GDPR comes into force. It’s also likely that conversations around AI ethics will grow louder, and that proper regulation will come under discussion in many parts of the world."

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 20 Dec 2017 17:41:50 GMT