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SXSW17 Trends: The robot overlord is not here but AI is here and now

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Are the bot overlords here yet?

Far from following the Texas phrase “all hat, no cattle”. SXSW proved itself yet again to be more than a tech conference, it delivered opportunity and inspiration in spades.

I came away with five very clear trends that are most applicable to the future of your business right now, and I am examining each of these in turn.

This week I am sharing the second piece which focuses on machines either in the form of robots of the ever growing AI.

Deep machine learning was selected as the most important trend of SXSW at the Interactive Awards on Tuesday. It is poised to transform all communications. There was much talk about human redundancy, however there was also a positivity as to how cognitive computing and use of big data can help us be more effective. The general consensus was that future is the integration of human intelligence, not the substitution.

The end for directors?

Sunspring debuted mid last year to much debate about whether a computer can really write a film. The result was questionable but also provided the inspiration Team One needed to ask the question can a computer do the whole thing? To investigate this they used a variety of algorithms to create a music video that was completely conceived, directed, filmed and edited by a computer. The result was passable but not great, however it appears that a machine is capable of executing this in a compressed timeframe. Maybe it is just a matter of time before the quality comes with it.

Bot overlords

After VR and AR the next most popular subject appears to be the use of messaging bots. Messaging is on the rise with over 2.6bn people having a messaging app installed and bots are natural extension of this. General principles discussed included the use of humour as a way to connect e.g. Christian Gray chatbot. As well as personalisation, ensuring you avoid a loop of "don't understand" is important, however the biggest discussion point was the use of bots to remove friction in dealings with customers via account linking. If this can be cracked then bots have the opportunity to be at the centre of all communications.

Robots in conversation

This year at Social Media week Gravity Thinking talked about “Escaping the Uncanny Valley,” a concept whereby the more human robots become, the more ‘creeped out’ humans become. The Japan start up zone at SXSW featured a traditional robot and the same robot, but with a human ‘look’ talking to guests. Judge for yourself, but clearly this is early days. Whatever your views on the subject however, it can't be denied that it is intriguing as to where this technology goes, however creepy it may be.

Self driving cars

Chinese brand Nio displayed a fully autonomous car using the Eve concept that is supposed to be coming to market in the next 3 years. Run by the AI NOMI, the voice activated car features a living room like interior with wrap round AR screens. What is most interesting about the car is that it not only learns about the driver, but also other drivers, with a goal to help traffic flow and efficiency.

So the general consensus is that whilst machine learning is here to stay, it will develop in a more ethereal form as opposed to a physical manifestation. The opportunity for brands is to experiment with the huge potential that AI offers, whether that be via bots or data intelligence is up to you.

See my take on VR and AR here.

Andrew Roberts is managing director at Gravity Thinking.

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