The age of assistance


1st November 2017


By Alan Perkins

Managing Director


SILVERDISC is old for a digital agency. Founded in 1993, we built our first website in 1994 and ran our first PPC ads in 2001. We're older than Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

Why do I mention this? For years and years (and years) during our history we were told that mobile was coming. 'Next year is the year of mobile' is something I probably first heard in 2001 when WAP and WML were trying to establish a foothold. I heard it continuously thereafter. Things took a quantum leap forward in 2007 with the release of the first iPhone, and a plethora of smartphones following that were based on the Android and Windows platforms as well as Apple. 2016 was finally the year when mobile claimed more than half of digital advertising expenditure. This means that, however you measure it, the year of mobile has happened sometime in the last few years.

So what's next? What's after mobile?

That was a key topic of the Google Partner conference I attended at the end of September in New York. The answer to 'What's next?' according to Google is 'The Age of Assistance'. That is, people helped more by devices by building artificial intelligence into those devices, that include the Google Home and Amazon Echo smart speakers, your phone, your car and a plethora of others. Google gave some amazing demos, most of which were covered by NDA, but to give some examples:

You could ask your Google Home device to show pictures of your daughter from last year on the TV. Behind this simple query lies a ton of AI, from automatically recognising and tagging photos of your daughter using facial recognition as they are uploaded to your Google Photos account, to knowing that 'your daughter' refers to that person, to knowing that 'your TV' refers to the nearest TV to you at that has a connected Chromecast device, to then simply playing the slideshow it has just created, with accompanying titles and music. All of this is pretty much possible now.

Another example would be an assistant that understands who you are and what you want out of travel, and can suggest and book things that are perfect for you personally in response to a simple query like 'Help me to book the family's summer holiday next year'.

Another example would be to take a photo of a flower and ask 'What flower is this?', or to take a photo of a West End show and be offered tickets for that show that evening, or to take a photo of a foreign language poster and see it in English.

All of this Artificial Intelligence augments our own intelligence. The opportunities this creates for advertising are amazing. To be useful, your assistant has to know you well. If it knows you well, it can suggest the best products and services for you.

Whether you see this as creepy or wonderful is a matter of taste, but there's no doubt that assistants are going to improve our lives in the years to come, and open up the opportunities for targeted, relevant advertising that is better for both advertisers and consumers.

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