Smart businesses will move quickly to harness artificial intelligence, as they have done with most other disruptive technologies in the past says DR DONALD BROWN, Founder and CEO, Interactive Intelligence.
The once-futuristic predictions about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the world are becoming reality. Legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil has imagined advanced technology delivering everything from computerised brain chips to near-total automation of industries, and we already see the signs that AI will ultimately change the way we live and work.
AI, where computers behave like humans, is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In many respects, AI is like a freight train racing down the tracks. Steady advances in hardware and software are sparking immense progress in how machines help interact with customers.
Google’s voice recognition technology, for instance, improved to 98% in 2014 from 84% just two years earlier. Facebook’s DeepFace technology now recognizes faces with 97% accuracy.
As for IBM’s Watson, its technology is 2,400% smarter today than when it achieved its Jeopardy victory in 2011. Voice recognition systems themselves now perform tens of millions of online searches every month.
As machines get smarter, companies across the globe are beginning to explore ways to leverage AI to work more efficiently, safely, accurately and cost-effectively, and improve consumer engagement and customer experience at the same time. AI will be used to replace simple human tasks and augment more complex ones in the foreseeable future.
In fact, we are already seeing humans being replaced by AI in mundane customer service roles – for example, through chat bots. Cognitive technologies are making possible faster actions and decisions that satisfy today’s consumers who seek speedy responses. It’s enabling improved efficiency of operations and employees, reduced labour costs, and greater scale by performing major tasks that are impractical to perform manually.
We can expect AI to impact critical fields like medicine, where it will be harnessed for more accurate diagnostics, treatment, and possibly even consultative roles. In the long term, it’s been predicted that AI will extend our brains to predominantly non-biological thinking.
Exactly how AI will be adopted and change the world isn’t easy to predict, but there is no doubt that smart businesses will use AI, as they have with every other technology at their disposal in the past, to disrupt themselves in order to succeed.
Much of this move to AI will be driven by a business need to anticipate customer needs in ways that surpass expectations, while increasing operational efficiencies.
The increasing dependence on AI, and its impact on the way people live and work, will feel disruptive to some and quite natural to others. For younger people, the so-called ‘digital natives’, moving from engagements with chat bots to counselling from AI therapists will feel like a natural progression. And for business, the benefits realised by the early adoption of AI technologies are likely to drive faster uptake.
Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?
It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.
Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.
When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.
That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.
In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.
The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.
Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.
“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.
“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”
Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.
In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
Robots coming to IFA
Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.
The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.
The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:
Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.
Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.
Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.
Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.
Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.
And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.
IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com