As executive VP of experience at Media.Monks and a geriatric millennial, I have been in the brand experience game for a long time. Earlier this month, the industry made its annual descent into Las Vegas for CES, and as I reflect on a week well-spent, I can’t help but think that we’re on the cusp of an artificial intelligence revolution that will upend brand experience as we know it. In chatting with my clients and my team, it struck me that our responsibility as marketers–as humans–is greater than ever.
Modern life has become fragmented and people are in dire need of meaningful experiences that facilitate community, fight our epidemic of loneliness, and allow for meaningful self-expression. The good news? AI is a bridge for human connection, a concept that may seem contradictory. But I am a firm believer that artificial intelligence will lead to more human connections.
To be more human is “to be at the center of one’s universe, to experience all of life’s colors and potential,” according to BBC Earth. As we look ahead to a smarter, AI-powered consumer journey, I believe we can leverage technology to do just that, creating better, personalized experiences that will resonate with us on a deeply human level, rather than merely getting mired in product and conversion.
Virtual avatars and authentic reactions
By way of example, let’s talk about virtual humans. While these futuristic concepts that took center stage at CES—alien robots, artificial intelligence, digital avatars—might seem counterintuitive to our ambition for human connection or exposure to other human experiences, they actually help us scale our experiences in ways we’d never imagine.
When added seamlessly into the consumer journey, virtual avatars offer an obvious financial upside for brands. It’s not sexy to talk about money, but when it comes to the one-to-one connection fostered between real humans and virtual avatars that I witnessed at CES this year, it bears repeating—I saw genuine banter and authentic reactions, all happening in real-time.
The latest technology makes this possible, including large language models, speech synthesis and Nvidia’s Omniverse Audio2Face, to name a few. The technology is only getting better and that means brands can better drive engagement, loyalty and conversion, leading to growth as well as potential savings in automating some labor. Brands are ready to start having this conversation; in fact, my team will be at GTC, Nvidia’s annual conference, delving into this technology alongside Amazon Web Services (AWS) in March.
Culture is ready too. Today’s generations have grown up spending a lot of time in virtual spaces, interacting with virtual avatars, building communities online, and redefining traditional notions around self-expression in digital environments. This generation is arguably the most inclusive, most empathetic. Brands would be remiss to not embrace meeting this generation where they are. Now is the time for brands to play a part in building the experiences of tomorrow.