‘Artificial intelligence’ is here to stay, there’s no doubt about it. Now, we at Air Social are all for innovation, in fact we thrive off it. But when everyone is jumping on the artificial intelligence bandwagon, we think we need to ask: when is it appropriate? And how much is too much? I mean, we’ve all seen Blade Runner after all.
For example, there’s a lot to say for a human touch, for example, what could be better than a smiling barista taking your order before handing you a hot cup of coffee with a delicately poured pattern floating on the top?
When we think of a good customer service experience, the words friendly and helpful spring to mind, also, the ability to cater for all needs; a bespoke service if you will. So what happens when that customer service gets replaced with a faceless app on your mobile phone? Well that’s exactly what Starbucks have decided to do.
Obviously their app has its perks (I can’t count the number of times my order of dry soy cappuccino, extra chocolate on top and two shots of sugar free caramel syrup has gone awry) but it’s an odd move from the company so intent on distancing themselves from their reputation as a faceless corporation, for example their ongoing campaign to put the customer’s name on the cup. This was a really great move for Starbucks back in 2012 and has inadvertently worked as a viral campaign too; not only do people frequently share their misspelt names online but also reminds us of the humanity of the baristas; we find ourselves actually celebrating the charm of human error. The app, although useful, completely contrasts the more human brand that Starbucks had started to create. It seems that Starbucks is using the right technology but with the wrong effect.
Now take the Amazon Echo which uses the Alexa operating system, the personal assistant Siri wishes she could be; Alexa has been credited as being life-changing for people with decreased mobility or the visually impaired. For example, one can change the thermostat or book a taxi without leaving your chair – or even looking at a screen. Things as insignificant as tuning a radio seem so simple to most but are difficult when you have a visual or physical impairment. With the Echo and Alexa that issue is eliminated.
Again, the technology comes with its pitfalls: last week a San Diego TV station came under criticism after a report about a girl who ordered a dollhouse via her parents' Amazon Echo caused Echoes in viewers' homes to also attempt to order dollhouses.
With Google and Samsung following Alexa's lead, this mode of artificial intelligence is undoubtedly set to be sticking around. Of course there are simply some things that can’t be faked, that includes human connection, creativity and, as Alexa proves, just a dash of common sense; but despite this we can't wait to see what lies ahead for artificial intelligence and what that means for the digital media landscape.