If you actively play in the consumer product space at all, or simply watch a lot of television, then there are a few terms that you have been inundated with recently: Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Cognitive systems. To some, these terms are exciting and speak to a tipping point in how consumers interact with the products in their everyday lives. To others, these terms are esoteric and even intimidating.
At its core, artificial intelligence (AI) describes machines that exhibit learning. Any device we refer to as “smart” exhibits some level of machine learning, and thus falls under the category of AI. A self-driving car? Yep. That Nest thermostat you were eyeing at Lowe’s? Absolutely. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri are now ubiquitous names that have widely recognized (albeit robotic) voices. Microsoft is pushing the envelope even further — its new Project Melange is moving toward more humanistic verbal interactions that consider accent, language, context and nuance. Uses for IBM’s Watson are being found across nearly every major industry, from tailoring cancer treatment plans to optimizing R&D operations to sports commentary. In fact, the market for artificial intelligence is expected to reach over $16 billion by 2022.
Through machine learning, technology is on track to outperform people and serve our needs at a single voice command. Not all consumers are comforted by this trend, and some are decidedly against the rate of growth of our technology. Considering this, the brands behind these commercialized innovations are finding it necessary to distil a lot of facts and specs into consumer stories. We can see how much more empowered, and thus more effective, our decisions can be with AI; of course, it is our job as marketers to connect those dots for others, to scrub and storyboard the facts so that they are digestible across demographics. And therein lies a tangible disconnect between some companies’ on-site marketing initiatives and their ultimate goals.