One of the upsides to attending the Consumer Electronics Show every year is that one becomes adept at separating hype from reality. What was yesterday's bright and shiny promise may have fizzled by the time the next January rolls around.
Not so with artificial intelligence. For something that nobody can actually see, AI remains top of mind for CES-goers. And this year more than ever, conference attendees are able to chart AI's progress in the marketplace.
"The big changes this year versus last year is the humanization of AI and how completely ubiquitous it has become into our lives," says Allan Cook, the digital reality business leader at Deloitte Digital. "If you look at voice enabled devices you see that you use it all the time. Last year it was a new toy. My family, we got them for the first time. Now everyone is ordering everything from their favorite device."
Cook, who chats with Ad Age in a video interview from the the Las Vegas Convention Center floor, is in town to speak at a pair of "smart future" presentations at CES, including one on trends reshaping the future of mobility and connectivity. AI, especially as an engine that fuels voice technology and augmented reality, is a point of fascination for him.
Which presents a few challenges to marketers
"One of the massive online retailers is getting closer to shipping nearly 50 percent of all goods at this point," he says, declining to specifically call out the large Seattle-based online retailer whose name rhymes with Shmamazon. The big challenge for marketers, then, is how does one stand out in a crowded field? "How do I make myself differentiated in that type of marketplace?"
One way Cook sees brands successfully using AI is to inform augmented and virtual reality services they offer. With AR, a home improvement center, for example, can accurately convey how a potential purchase might look in your living room. "I can see what the furniture would actually look like," he says.
The upside for brands, he says, is that the costs that incur on returns has come down. "While it's not dramatically helping them to sell more," he says, "the costs of returns are going down hugely. So the cost of selling is going down a massive amount."
If you can't beat 'em
AI comes with no shortage of worries for the average consumer—not least of which involve privacy and the dreaded specter of robots taking our jobs.
"One of the things which people are fearful of with AI or believe—that isn't true—is that AI is a job killer," says Cook. "The reality is that, yes, it's going to end some jobs, but it's creating a whole new field of new jobs. It's that classic adapt or die: If you're not going to be with the program, you're going to be run over by it."