Creative & Tech

Dispatch from SXSW: AI Innovation is Happening Now

March 16, 2017

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted to deliver the next wave of societal transformation, often paralleled with the introduction of the internet and sliced bread. SXSW, considered a bellwether of tech trends, heralds that the “AI Moment” is right around the corner, if not happening right now. The advertising industry has the raw materials to be an early-mover in the space with those who do it well poised to catapult their client’s business forward.

Despite its potential to shake the foundation of advertising, AI will likely not be viewed as the most innovative marketing in 2017; honestly, I believe that honor will go to a little girl standing up to a bull on Wall Street.

Comparatively, AI won’t be making loud, bold statements, rather when done well, AI will blend, unnoticeably into the fabric of our everyday lives. As this tech evolves, it has the propensity to allow brands to seamlessly integrate into consumer’s existing habits and thus be more effective at targeting their needs and anticipating their intentions. The result? AI is already transforming lives now as evidenced by consumer reliance on Google Maps’ AI to suggest alternate routes and on Amazon to recommend additional products; brands are already becoming indispensable to consumers.

Quite a few companies are already making significant strides in AI, and as is typical with early adopters, some are employing it for the sake of novelty and others for the sake of innovation. While not all forays into AI have been well executed and some have even provoked deep concern about the technology, this should not deter marketers from experimenting in the space.

Given the high risk of doing something new in this space, marketers should employ AI to innovate; consider a specific problem and how AI can solve for it. As marketers, we’re here to help solve problems, but not all problems can be tied directly back to a client’s business. In fact some of the most innovative work in AI so far has been designed to solve broader problems facing the world’s population. SXSW was rich with examples of companies taking a smart and innovative step into this realm and doing it well; below are a few of my favorites:

SUPA & Smart Clothing

SUPA is a low-fi, high-tech AI platform that uses any sensor they can get their hands on to track biometrics to aid in people’s everyday life.

SUPA was featured in UNICEF: Wearables for Good Catalogue highlighting SUPA powered Maternity; a wearable sensor kit for pregnant women in rural areas around the globe that minimizes the risk of maternal death by monitoring biometrics and alerting birth attendants. Maternal death kills 39 out of every 1,000 women in Ethiopia. This kit measures and collects vital signs of newborns during the first 72 critical hours after birth to provide critical health data to the clinic and automatically registers the baby. This data is then used to examine potentially life threatening complications, identify patterns in the spread of disease and correlate its causes.

Sabine Seymour, SUPA CEO, explains the interface connected to the bra.

Intel & Google & The Fight Against Child Sexual Exploitation

Technology engineers from Intel and Google are ignoring competitive lines to partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to apply machine learning and advanced analytics to help victims of child sex trafficking. The collaboration is proving AI can be applied to solve a growing number of business and societal problems. Their belief is that while so many are focused on advancing the technology, we can’t lose sight of the human element and how this technology could be leveraged to solve the world’s problems.

Lisa Thee, Intel Analytics & AI Solution Owner, lead the panel with representation from Google, NCMEC, Cloudera and Thorn

IBM’s Watson & Morgan 

IBM’s Watson made the first movie trailer ever created by artificial intelligence; appropriately, the movie is physiological thriller about an artificially engineered “child” who presents both infinite promise and incalculable danger.

To make the film, IBM sent Watson to “film school” — Watson analyzed the trailers of over 100 horror and thriller film trailers to understand what sounds, scenes, and emotions to incorporate. The system looked at musical scores, the emotions in certain scenes (indicated by people’s faces, color grading, and the objects shown), and the traditional order and composition of scenes in movie trailers. IBM says that in using AI, the time and labor involved to make trailers was cut down from 10-30 days to just 24 hours.

We are at the precipice of what could be the most disruptive and transformative change in technological progress we have ever experience before. SXSW explored how AI and automation will force companies to reimagine how they operate and redefine what “the human element” means for our business. The best way for you to prepare for this new world is to embrace this change, evaluate what you bring to the table and educate yourself in a way that embraces your humanity because the machines may have everything else covered.