Tech Trends 2018: Expert Opinions on AI, AR, VR and other acronyms

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When examining the major tech trends that I feel will bloom and blossom in 2018, I feel it necessary to take a step back and evaluate exactly where 2017 ends and 2018. Not literally, of course, but purely in terms of where one trend ends and another begins, as so many of the trends I discovered this year when I consulted my digital rolodex of talking heads, were more progressions from the trends of 2017 than brand new ideas. That's very much indicative of the tech world as a whole in 2017/2018 though, we're sitting on a precipice, with each year bringing a gradual improvement of evolution before we eventually stumble off the cliff edge and into an episode of Black Mirror.

Many of the trends examined below voice concern, but there's also a lot of positivity hidden amongst these prognostications. There's is also plenty that relates to the worlds of advertising and design, of course (that is our bread and butter after all), but I will also be compiling separate pieces for those industries before the end of the week.

For now, however, sit back with you smart coffee in your smart lounge with your smart pyjamas (too far?) and prepare to absorb the wisdom of some of the wisest creatives in tech town.

Evolving Tech

Dean Taylor, UK Director of Creative Strategy at Momentum Worldwide, on how our brands will update us with post-purchase updates to increase consumer confidence


As we move into 2018, expect to see the customer experience evolve into a world in which B2B and B2C products have ecosystems that allow them to improve long after purchase to keep the customer engaged, drive long-term loyalty, and provide post-purchase reassurance that their money has been well spent. Amazon Echo is already using this approach (routinely alerting us to new features the device can support), and Tesla vehicles receive “over-the-air” software updates that add new features with onboard tutorials. These post-purchase value offerings can help lessen consumers’ lingering anxiety relating to price point, or that a competitor’s product might have been the better choice. Expect to see more brands embracing the post-purchase relationship, as they each fight for customer loyalty.


Voice-led Interaction with our Increasingly Smart Machines

Kara Melchers, Managing Editor of BITE for Creativebrief, on the increasingly casual, but important role voice-activated tech will play in our lives in 2018


More of us are inviting technology into our lives; into our homes, cars and even clothing. We’re in the middle of a long-term trend towards technology becoming a lot more casual. Voice-activated interfaces and wireless headphones now enable effortless connectivity all the time. Our human instinct to lead with our voice, rather than with text, will drive adoption of this new technology. The more we spend time with our machines the smarter they will get. In the future it won’t be about responding to a simple command, it’s going to be about anticipating our needs, making helpful recommendations, and perhaps even making decisions on our behalf. So it’s time for brands to start thinking about what they sound like (literally) and how to talk to the AI gatekeepers that lie between them and their customers.

Jim Bowes, CEO and Founder of Manifesto, on how the internet of things and blockchain technology will become big news in 2018


It’s no surprise to see Google Home and Amazon Echo being promoted so heavily in the run-up to Christmas this year. I think we will see voice-activated technologies continue to play a larger part in marketing. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will also become a more noticeable part of day-to-day life and, with sensors increasingly common, the internet of things will become much more tangible. The internet of things is beginning to develop beyond simple devices and into sensors. Coupled with the ability of blockchain-based technology to allow micro-payments across new types of device, I think this could be a significant opportunity for marketers in 2018. This technology will allow parts or consumables to be automatically re-ordered when they run out. This is likely to cause huge disruption to the logistics industry as businesses and consumers will begin receiving items before they even knew they needed them. Not only will this cut out a huge part of the current supply chain, it will also have a major impact on the day-to-day lives of consumers.


Smarter Startups

David Parry, COO at global branding consultancy, Saffron, muses on the grand folly of Uber in 2017 and how other tech startups can learn from its mistakes in 2018.


If 2017 revealed anything to us, it is this: when the waters get choppy, those businesses who have made a proper investment in their brand are offered a critical level of protection. The disastrous situation Uber found itself in this year has become a textbook case study in how poor brand strategy comes back to bite you. The ‘launch fast, iterate faster’ approach might have driven rapid disruptive growth on a rising tide but as the waters recede and questions are raised about what you stand for as a business, then there is work to do. We’re already seeing other tech ‘upstarts’ learning a similar lesson (Snapchat is a notable example) and as 2018 arrives, we will see more companies like this finding out that a disruptive model, a nice user experience and a shiny logo are not enough when times get tough.


The Increasing Role of AI in Creativity

Robert Berkeley, President of Express KCS, on the use of AI in data-driven marketing, and how it could be used to improve the workflow of creatives, rather than replace them.


Creative disciplines are not usually the first things that come to mind when most think of Artificial Intelligence. However, the technology’s rise has been paved in the creative sector by that of data-driven marketing and business intelligence. The use of data-driven marketing and business intelligence has widely become the norm in many sectors. Data is now a driver of intelligent decision making and targeting in marketing, aiding, not replacing those in the creative industry; the role of the traditional designers and marketers is not under threat. Instead, automating parts of creative work can enable teams to dedicate more time to more complex and time-heavy tasks, dramatically improving process management and staff resourcing. We’ve previously seen AI widely used to suggest new ideas and develop simple work, such as basic ad templates that would typically be seen as menial content curation by expert design teams. AI is currently adding the greatest value in prevention technologies. For example, ad-fraud detection is already using AI to guarantee the ad-spend is delivering its desired outcomes. AI helps systems to automatically learn and predict occurrences of fraud, enabling brands to act appropriately. The same technology is also being widely applied in search marketing and programmatic advertising as a means to detect opportunities and provide insight into positioning.

Tom Youel, Creative Content Developer at augmented reality app developers Zappar, on how AI could positively affect the creative process


The wide introduction of AI must be viewed in all industries as an opportunity to grow and up-skill existing staff. However, in creativity, AI should improve and dramatically aid creativity rather than make it robotic. AI has the potential to make a real difference to creative processes. Ultimately the more easily brands and agencies can identify value, the more likely creative ideas and design will achieve their desired results.

Andy MacMillan, CEO at marketing automation company Act-On, discusses how AI will affect B2B in 2018


As blogger Karola Karlson wrote on the Content Marketing Institute site, “Every day your team postpones using innovative AI-powered solutions in your content marketing, you’re losing the competitive edge.” More and more B2B companies in 2018 will embrace AI technologies as they grapple with a crucial challenge in managing digital relationships: retaining a personal connection. As B2B audiences increasingly self-educate on a company’s products, they have become more demanding about the content they receive -- they expect a more personalized experience throughout. Being able to provide that has become as critically important to a company as the product they sell. Marketing automation already puts computers to work performing a variety of manual tasks and helps marketers save time, target more effectively and optimize all stages of the customer experience. With AI, marketers can gain deeper insights into customer behaviour and receive recommendations on the best courses of action, such as what time of the day or week is an email most likely to resonate with the buyer. In 2018, AI capabilities will start to become a standard part of the toolkit in managing B2B relationships.


Podcasting Goes Mainstream

Clare Chadburn, Head of Development at Wisebuddah, on the wonderful world of podcasting


In 2017, podcasting became cool. “S-Town,” “My Dad Wrote A Porno” and “Dirty John” all had their water-cooler moments, spreading by word-of-mouth and social media through the binge-listening Netflix generation. In the UK, we saw a number of new and successful podcast brands launching from “The Totally Football Show” to Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd’s “Reasons to be Cheerful.” And there were the big players – Amazon’s Audible, Spotify, Deezer, Panapoly and the BBC all commissioning paid-for original podcasts at the higher end of the market. Raising a finger to the wind, podcasting is going to become more mainstream in 2018, welcoming younger listeners and covering a more diverse range of genres. The field is wide open for a successful UK podcast drama and it will be interesting to see if UK producers will follow in the footsteps of the US in creating IP through original scripted shows like “Homecoming.” Brands will no doubt continue to see the value in connecting with podcast audiences through traditional advertising, but I believe that more will take the leap into funding original commissions like The Guardian’s new drama “Adulting” supported by Lloyds Bank. Will the UK start to catch up with the booming US podcast market in 2018? Probably not, but UK producers and advertisers will certainly enjoy increased opportunities to reach listeners across the Atlantic and around the world.


Augmented Humanity

Jean Lin, Global CEO at Isobar, on the technology that will enhance and scale our most human attributes in the next 12 months


In 2018, technological interfaces will become more natural and instinctive, technology will automate repetitive tasks to free up time for creativity and compassion, and artificial intelligence will meet emotional intelligence. Artificial intelligence is great, but humans score on emotional intelligence. The power of being human is in empathy. This cannot be automated or outsourced. Augmented Humanity will use technology to scale everything that is best and most powerful about human interaction. We may one day view the era of anonymous, one size fits all transactions as a temporary blip in our evolution, and that as technology advances it will become more human, not less. It will return us to a time where the voice will be the primary way we interact with the world, where we will be recognised and rewarded in stores, and where we will buy more directly from trusted suppliers.


Immersive and Complimentary VR and AR Experiences

Francisco Lima, visual effects technology supervisor at Gramercy Park Studios, on the need for collaboration between brands and tech companies to create thoughtful, impactful VR experiences


We have seen digital technology rapidly evolve to become more automated, intelligent, and data-driven – propelled by the convergence of exponential technologies such as AI, big data, cloud computing, and blockchain. Virtual reality leads this change with brands across multiple industry sectors, including health, automotive, and retail, utilising VR technology to engage customers in new immersive brand experiences ranging from 360-degree online and headset videos to pop-up events and installations. Its rocketing success has prompted brands to become braver and more experimental in their marketing. And as more agencies offer VR as a capability, we expect more brands to catch on. Internally, the creation of VR branded content requires a collaborative, thoughtful, and multi-disciplinary approach. Due to VR’s novel and non-linear interactivity, teams need to work together to align VR content with other campaign elements such as TV, social, and OOH. As most advertising campaigns are multi-platform and multi-narrative, VR experiences need to compliment the campaign’s storytelling objectives across every channel for full effectiveness. Building an immersive VR experience, from inception to delivery, multi-disciplinary teams can determine which storytelling elements to include in the VR experience and at which specific moments these elements feature. Not only does this allow users to become active participants in the narrative by interacting with virtual CGI environments, objects, and characters, it gives brands the power to manage customers’ experiences from start to finish. Forming closer brand-consumer relationships, VR has become one of the best storytelling tools in the current advertising landscape.

Sean Kinmount, Creative Director and Founding Partner at 23red on the potential of AR in building relevant and engaging creative content


We don’t need a crystal ball to predict that technology will continue to drive changes in the way we communicate through advertising. Trending topics are Big Data and Machine Learning which have been described as the new oil and the new engine of marketing respectively. But as automation increases, we also need to spend time figuring out how to build relevant creative content that engages our audiences in a very different way. Immersive technologies like AR and VR can play a big role in building that content and although it’s not a case of one or the other I believe that AR will find more real-world applications than fully immersive virtual reality. Phone developers are already building ‘depth lenses’ to support AR applications, and this will continue at a pace. Augmented Reality powered by AI algorithms has the ability to add real depth and engagement to brands wanting to enhance real-world experiences.

Phil Lloyd, Chief Customer Officer at Snatch, the AR treasure hunting app developer, feels that AR has potential, but that brands should tread carefully and learn to crawl before they run


2017 was a landmark year for augmented reality, thanks to the launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s AR Core for developers. With AR technology reaching mass adoption by way of hardware and software updates towards the end of the year, ever more brands are beginning to follow suit, awakening to the new opportunities that exist to more effectively engage with consumers. When the App Store was first launched, many companies rushed out to create an app with insufficient consideration for the end user benefit, with the end result being that few consumers engaged meaningfully with each individual app, resulting in a poor ROI for brands. In the coming year, the smartest marketers will appreciate consumers’ increasing uses of AR technologies (facilitated by ever more powerful hardware), but for there to be marketing ROI, that technology should be based on a clear strategy that recognises the desires of consumers. The usual caveat applies; AR technologies and experiences are ultimately marketing tactics. They are just another way by which brands and people engage, in the same way that TV advertising was once used to connect detergent brands with eager participants in that wondrous new technology. That isn’t to reduce the importance of AR more broadly or sound cynical; it’s clear from Apple’s latest hardware investment (and knock on cost to the user) of the iPhone X that it believes in a world enriched by deep AR experiences. But it is a careful caution for a rush by marketers to manically create AR marketing tactics. The use of any new technology should be grounded in marketing strategy and objective analysis of any tool to land that strategy. In the coming year, the smartest marketers will understand that consumers are increasingly comfortable with AR technologies (facilitated by ever more powerful hardware) but for there to be marketing ROI, that technology should be based on a clear strategy that works.

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK. If you have a few spare minutes, check his thought on the Tech Stories of the Year in 2017 and check back with Creativepool later in the week for more insight from industry insiders on the top trends in Advertising and Design to come our way in 2018.



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