By: Michael Nicholas, Entrepreneur in Residence, Assembly & Max Fresen, Creative Partner, Born
The U.S. Navy SEALs have a saying: "Get comfortable being uncomfortable." Following that principle can have life changing effects, and it also isn’t a bad way for marketers to approach the latest advances and technologies. Either way, it means if you want to grow…you need to leave your comfort zone at the door.
That said, there are a number of breakthrough companies out there doing incredible things around AI, AR/VR, and IoT that we were able to explore last month at CES. Just like the Navy SEALs, we like being “uncomfortable” – and so do our clients.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Why does it Matter to Marketers?
AI is a powerful force that is having its moment thanks to advanced prominent voices like SIRI, Alexa, and Watson. What can it tell marketers about consumers, and what can it help consumers learn about themselves? To better understand, here are a few AI start-ups that illustrate the raw power artificial intelligence is bringing to the marketplace.
Data mining has been a great way to get insights into our conscious decisions. But dotin figured out that 95 percent of human decisions are made by the unconscious mind, and so the startup has developed AI to “data mine” the unconscious levels of our mind. It can ingest social media interactions, images, enterprise data, or most any “unstructured data” source and can output personality insights, compatibility matches, brand affinity, and of course buying behavior. The machine can do this because the natural language understanding of the AI is not reliant of data structure, but dotin can pull meaning from our language directly without the need for tags and meta data.
AiPoly is blowing up. It was developed to augment the lives of people with disabilities, and it offers a new level of speed and portability/mobility in real-time computer vision. AiPoly uses AI to see very specific things (baseball hat vs top hat) and can identify specific brands by mark or design. Artificial Intelligence Powered Computer Vision like AiPoly will enable brands to connect better with consumers in real life while also giving users a new level of visual search of places, things, and brands. This technology seamlessly unlocks a world where “what you see is what you get,” delivering opportunities for commerce, brand, and beyond.
Augmented & Virtual Reality (AR / VR): What is it, Why Should we Care, and When is it Coming?
Sure, there are lots of goggles out there, but when will this matter to marketers? Lots of expensive hardware tethered to a huge computer doesn’t make for mass consumer adoption and scalable marketing experiences that brands care about. So, when is it coming? What are the barriers that need to drop? There are many, but the main issue isn’t cost, per se – it’s a perceived value by consumers.
Consumers spend huge money on TV and phones because they deliver value for the money. Seven-hundred-dollar VR goggles, though, are a different story. Hopefully brands are going to sit up and take notice of a few of the following:
LucidCam is one of the very first personal stereoscopic VR camera for consumers, turning people into true stereoscopic VR creators. The technology unlocks access to new types of creators. We do not think it’s reasonable to think the expert creators in flat, linear video content will be the best creators of 360 degree experiences of VR. But these devices and the content they will unleash will lead to the emergence of the “YouTube” of VR (which could be YouTube360) and the integration of the tech into mobile phones at the OEM level, driving even more democratization and proliferation.
Visbit is emblematic of an important innovation trend: VR-sized content (which is huge), streaming beautifully over mobile. This is an essential ingredient in the mainstreaming of VR – it’s an essential enabler. The lack of this technology isn’t a barrier today, in and of itself, because there are practically no consumer-grade platforms that support untethered 4K VR, and because there is currently not a huge amount of content on YouTube360. But if high-end VR is truly going to become portable over the next 12-36 months, and if the world of user-generated VR video content is to find an audience, then this type of streaming service will be absolutely essential.
Internet of Things (IoT): Human Data & Unlocking the Narrative
The Internet of Things is a term that has been bandied about for years now, and although it seems to have finally found its way into the mainstream with regards to thermostats and security systems, the fact is that you ain’t seen nothing yet. Everything is about to be connected to everything else, and although some of it seems a bit frivolous (Q: Do I need a hairbrush that tells my phone about my scalp health? A: No, I do not.), the amount of data that is produced by “smart” devices is becoming very interesting.
We are moving from a world in which we receive only transactional footprints of customers to a world in which the devices around us tell a story, in concert, that is as unique and intricate and undeniably our own as a fingerprint, or strand of DNA – a human narrative, hidden in a sea of raw data. AI finds signals that we could never find (that the small slip in punctuality you bring to your cat’s feeding schedule presages a cold by nearly a week, for example), and in a world full of “smart things,” the possibilities for signal discovery begin to approach the infinite.
What we are seeing out there signals the coming wave of aftermarket adapters that will do for every appliance what Phillips did for lightbulbs with Hue.
Roost - Smart Batteries for Dumb Devices
A huge barrier to IoT adoption in the home is cost. Getting people to foot the bill to make the devices in their home smart and interconnected is not on the top of the average citizens to-do-list. Roost understands this and makes batteries that make the dumb things you already own, smart, lowering the barrier to making older homes smart. For instance, how about a Wi-Fi enabled, cloud connected Smart Battery for smoke alarms that transforms any existing 9V smoke alarm into a smart smoke alarm. A smart smoke alarm from someone like NEST is over $100. A battery from Roost that makes the smoke alarm you already have smart is ~$30. Solutions like these will be key in lowering the barrier to smart, connected homes and unlocking the valuable data from how people live off the internet.
PlayDate is part of a very interesting category of IoT and smart home called pet tech. This might sound strange unless you’re a pet owner, in which case you likely spend a lot of money on “Fido.” Connected pet communication and distance playing start-ups will collect new data on people and their lives. This information is obviously interesting to pet brands, but it’s also relevant as a data point in people lives.
We think pet tech will be a huge part of IoT, and we believe that data like this – the type that may not be obviously connected to domains that might interest us as marketers otherwise – will prove to be the real gold mine, as a tremendous carrier for signal in the age of machine learning.
We’re already at work helping clients leverage these technologies, and we anticipate the results will grow our clients’ businesses exponentially. There’s never been a better time to get out of your comfort zone. You can thank us (and the Navy SEALs) later.