IBM: “AI and cognitive systems are very like human beings”

Tyrone Stewart

Tony Maile (IBM)The slow and steady rise of the machine is a hot topic, as companies continue to strive to make our lives easier through technology. This development in technology is no more evident than in the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in various devices and on various platforms. Despite this, we’re not quite yet at the stage of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Ex Machina, Humans (the tv show) or I, Robot (but we’ve still 18 years to pull that one off). Speaking at the Connected Consumer Summit, Tony Maile, European retail leader at IBM cognitive solutions, suggested that these advancements may not actually be as far off as we thought, however, comparing AI to humans. He said: “In simple terms, we’re talking about computer systems that understand reason and learn. Old computers have to be programmed to do everything – AI and cognitive systems are very like human beings. Well, like babies, if I’m honest – because they don’t know anything at the beginning and then you’ve got to teach them over time.” Retail robot revolution? Four out of five retailers think they know their customers, but only one in five of customers agree – according to an IBM study. Because of this, Maile pointed out that many companies are “looking to AI to them an edge, to help them be more competitive”. “This technology gives you the ability to understand consumers in natural language,” he continued. “If you could talk in natural language, is the age of the survey over? Because imagine you putting up an image of a new marketing campaign, and you just say ‘what do you think of that?’, and imagine if a consumer can talk to you. Better than that, you can use cognitive systems to analyse what they’ve said to you and draw out conclusions from it.” Using the technology could be used to revolutionise research and development, and, in turn, enable businesses to connect better with their customers, Maile suggested. “You can do multiple versions of something – could be a landing page, a brand name, a product, a colour – and, if you can interact, there’s some fabulous potential for you getting more data,” said Maile. “What’s a better way than just asking the customers what they want, or what they don’t like? Customers will often tell you and, as a company, if you’re not capturing that how can you improve your marketing?” Virtual friendship Maile pointed out that people become attached to devices, such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home, and this is important to aide companies in knowing more about their customers, as well as using these ‘bonds’ to better reach customers. “People form relationships with these things. It’s human nature when you’re talking to something is to bond with it,” he said. At the same time, companies need to start addressing their advertising and put an end to static adverts by implementing AI. Maile continued: “Imagine if you can start to ask questions of your adverts, imagine if you can start to interact with adverts, imagine if you can start to explore more about products and services – without the marketing team having to come up with everything possible in terms of a brochure.”