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Wow-Worthy Robots

By Andrew Frank | August 13, 2014 | 1 Comment

Any sci-fi buff will tell you that robot uprising is about the most popular trope in the genre: The Matrix, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica…clearly the theme has legs. As the Internet of Things blurs the lines between our physical and digital worlds, robots and intelligent agents are shaking off their legacy metallic sci-fi associations and assuming new roles in our daily lives. As Spike Jonez observes in Her, the role of intelligent machines in our society is likely to be more complex than physical confrontation.

Which brings us to digital marketing.  Campaigns come and campaigns go but the right algorithms can move the needle permanently. So to round out our examination of #wowworthydigital efforts in digital marketing, here are a few examples intended to inspire you to think out-of-the-rectangle.

·         The Googlebot. OK, my colleague Marty already evoked Google’s wow-worthiness in a recent post, but consider: Google deserves credit for introducing the word “bot” to our digital vocabulary. You may argue that a “bot” is not the same as a robot, but let’s not quibble: the Googlebot changed the world simply by crawling around and indexing web sites and demonstrated that the digital world is fertile ground for autonomous agents. Today it’s so powerful that every time it evolves it sends thousands of marketers scrambling to react. Wow. The Googlebot spawned a Cambrian explosion of bots and crawlers, often of nefarious intent (subscription required). Today there are so many that their visits can distort your web analytics, so think about how to filter them when assessing your traffic. And think about how to recruit them for your own data collection efforts.

·         Watson. Who could watch Watson destroy humans at Jeopardy and not say wow? But is it relevant? IBM Interactive is teaming up with IBM Research to bring Watson into the marketing suite – not tomorrow, but today. Watson is revolutionizing digital customer relationship marketing with a digital avatar that can converse with and answer questions from prospects and customers of a major property and casualty insurance firm. That’s a wow. 

·         Narrative Science. Content marketing and its promise of continuous engagement have a serious drawback: they require a constant stream of content. Solution: robot journalists, who translate numbers into stories for publications like Forbes. OK, the prose is a little dry, but still. Wow.

·         EmoSPARK. Indiegogo makes a cube with a Her-like personality that can control your home – and maybe more. Built around what it calls an “EPU” (Emotional Processing Unit), with permission it taps into your social networks and media services to assess your personality and make recommendations for content, such as a YouTube video, that it predicts could improve your mood. (See also NinjaBlocks.) Yes, future shock, but wow. Marketers take note: could your marketing improve someone’s mood with AI?

·         Kik. Chat bots have been around for a while – and they’ve mostly, you know, sucked – but Kik, which, according the The Wall Street Journal, claims “four in 10 U.S. teens are active users of its service,” appears to be living up to the claim of enabling a new kind of relationship between individuals and brands. Kik’s own chat bot claims 1.8 million messages a day. Kik is still working out some kinks, but brand chat bots can reportedly learn from human conversations and adopt a brand personality while entertaining and guiding customers and prospects at on a global scale. Wow.

Naturally, we’ve barely scratched the surface of this wow-worthy topic. Buglabs, which makes an IoT development kit called Swarm, has a good resource for further exploration: its founder, Peter Semmelhack, has written a book called Social Machines that lays out some of the developments and possibilities in this area. See also Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age. Then, check out what the Siri team at Viv is up to next in Wired.

So, let’s put those dystopian scenarios aside and think about what marketers can learn from these wow-worthy bots.

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1 Comment

  • Annie Craven says:

    Some great robots here, can’t wait to see what the future has in store for digital marketing. Thanks for sharing your post!