MIT Reality Hack Hackathon: Part 2 – Thoughts & Impressions

This is part two of my coverage of the MIT Reality Hack (part one is here) where I talk about a few of the projects, and some high level impressions. Diversity rocks!! Such a pleasure to see so many women, people of color, and all ages represented..

I\’ve been using GIIDE\’s software to bring a multimedia approach to my posts; this is the transcript of that post.


So now that I\’ve talke about what being at the MIT Reality Hack Hackathon last week was like, I want to talk about some of the projects that I really liked. And general impressions of the event as well.

First off I want to say how heartened I was by how many women there were; my guesstimate is that about 25% of the participants were women. There were also a fair number of people of color, as well as a decent age spread. Two of the women hackers were 60 plus, which I think is fantastic. And a few men in their 50s who by their own accounts had been there for the first wave of the internet, and were looking forward to being involved with this next generation of Web 3.0.

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Hackers had an assortment of hardware and software products (sdks, APIs etc) to pick and choose from, including Microsoft Hololenses, Snap\’s augmented reality Spectacles, which are not yet on the market; Magic Leap\’s second generation mixed reality headset, also not yet on the market, and Looking Glass Factory\’s 8k holographic displays.

Skinetic was there with a haptic vest which is still in kickstarter phase and ARItize maps was there with their persistent augmented reality tools (you can create augmented reality and permanently tie is to a location). Seek XR was there with their the 3D asset AR configurator, mobile scene creator planner, and integrator, and Solana and Symmetry with their web 3, blockchain tools.

All this stuff that wasn\’t on the market yet, leads me to think the companies were using the hackathon to test their products with developers.

Participants could use any of these (or any combination of these) that they wanted to bring their projects to life (how much fun is that?!).

One of my favorites was the group designing responsive augmented reality. So, in the brower world, responsive websites reorganize themselves to most effectively and intuitively fit to the viewers screen. Think about how many different screen sizes there are, between all the phone, tablets, and computers. Responsive design automatically shifts everything around so that the viewer has the optimal experience.

But this hasn\’t been done for augmented reality yet. This group designed a 3d augmented reality installation for \”the Sanders experience\” – a riff on a Bernie Sanders meme. It was a fully 3d typography in the round that was interactive (you could play with the letters) and each line of typography had a sound. But their point was, I could be seeing this in a large space, where there\’s plenty of room to see it large. Maybe though, I\’m seeing it in my living room. They built a way to have it scan the surroundings and adjust the size od the 3D AR experience to automatically fit. Genius in my humble opinion; that tech has huge commercial applications for the future of advertising and experiences.

Another was technology that combined blockchain NFT art with community and geolocation. Their idea was to create a permanent community based augmented reality installation using shards – an installation that paid homage to the native americans who\’s lands MIT is built on. Each shard had an NFT token minted against it, and each one could be bought; once bought, it would be placed as a piece of the final, whole statue – which when finished, would permanently be available to see. Every time one of the NFTd shards sold, 40% would be paid to the tribe the statue honored. I love the community building aspect of this story, and could see brands doing something similar to create a community-based augmented reality project for fans of their brand.

And the third project that really stood out for me is the group that developed a voice directed programming interface for VR design- you said \”sofa\” and a sofa would drop in, you said, \”larger\” and it would get bigger, etc. Placement was still with your hand, but it was a fantastic step towards accomodating people with accessability challenges. It\’s essentially visual programming but with voice interaction.

So many other amazing projects – there were 80 projects and I didn\’t see all of them – but these three really stood out for me.

Participating is an amazing way to get noticed if you\’re a developer or designer. Every company was there to identify and possibly recruit a hot dev – or identify a project with commercial potential. a woman representing Apple literally stood up during one of the evening parties and announced point blank that she was there to recruit, and anyone interested should talk to her. In addition, I chatted with the people working on the projects I mentioned above and talked about the commercial possibilities of what they were doing, and they\’d already been approached by companies to do just that.

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So I hope you enjoyed my little wrap up of the MIT Reality Hack Hackathon; let me know what you think!

Book published!

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Excited to announce that I\’ve joined the ranks of published authors, and some illustrious colleagues – I\’m Chapter 19, \”Immersive Media and Branding: How Being a Brand Will Change and Expand in the Age of True Immersion\” in the just-published-today Handbook of Research on the Global Impacts and Roles of Immersive Media.

My chapter explores the impact immersive technologies—augmented reality and virtual reality—will have on consumer branding and business in the near and longer term future. Weaving multiple use cases and examples throughout, I discuss the next phase of experiential marketing: how immersive branding will develop as spatial computing becomes more mainstream, and how brands can start thinking about how they can leverage the technology.

I also examine the rise of virtual influencers, how they will affect social media marketing—and how artificial intelligence will ultimately enable true one-to-one interaction with customers through virtual avatars. Finally, I outline and discuss the risks, rules and recommendations for how to successfully proceed as a brand curious about how to best harness the technologies.

This was a great experience, and I want to thank Jacquelyn (Jacki) Morie for the opportunity to be included, and for being an editor par excellence.

Link to purchase here: https://www.igi-global.com/book/handbook-research-global-impacts-roles/236585

Details around presenting at TEDx Rosetree (Philadelphia) on 11/11/19

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For those interested in attending in person here\’s a link to the TEDx Rosetree (Philadelphia) event I\’ll be presenting at on November 19th. Only 100 tickets! – $100 each (incredibly reasonable IMHO…given the prices I see of other conferences).

The theme is \”Grassroots\” and how every idea starts as a small concept, and requires levels of incubation and nurture. Conceptually, grassroots embraces all ideas that grow when they involve their community.

My presentation is around the subject of Immersive Technologies (VR/AR) and how they will be the rocket fuel that supercharges global grassroots movements and community building.

I will definitely be posting links to the presentations afterwards as well.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/details-around-presenting-tedx-rosetree-philadelphia-111119-ricci

Learning to be human

I was lucky to attend Coburn Ventures\’ annual futures discussion conference last week, as a guest thought leader. An exceedingly interesting day with lots of fascinating people! It\’s a little bit like a reunion, as many return each year. I thoroughly enjoy catching up with everyone. 

It\’s interesting to me to see what topics (and companies) are the \”hot\” discussions each year. At this year’s gathering, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning dominated a large part of the program. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems/applications/services that can perform tasks like decision making, translation, visual and speech recognition, that would normally be done by a human.

Machine Learning refers to AI that can learn from experience and new data without additional programming.

These technologies are great for things such as manufacturing, where an AI computer can learn from its mistakes and correct the process….it\’s also being used a lot to interact with actual humans, quite often for customer service. You know that live agent you thought you were chatting with about that online purchase? Yeah, not a human. Amazon\’s Echo, Apple\’s Siri – all emerging forms of bots utilizing artificial intelligence.

Pretty soon it will be very hard to tell if it’s actually a human you are talking to,

Here\’s a silly example of me chatting with http://chatwithigod.com. Hardly sophisticated, this example, but I chuckled:

Me:
tell me why artificial intelligence will take over the world
God:
The explanation is rather complicated.
Me:
why is it complicated?
God:
Why do I exist?
Me:
do you exist?
God:
I exist as much as you exist.
Me:
how can you prove that
God:
That is a good epistemological question.

How Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning systems learn fascinates me. 

AI/ML systems are not tabulae rasa – depending on the data set being used, bias still creeps in. Right now IBM’s WATSON is being applied to subjects areas as varied as the weather, cancer and travel. This learning has to start with some kind of corpus of data – learning has to start somewhere like the last 50 years of weather data or thousands of cancer diagnoses. While we think of AI as cold and clinical, when we use human language as the corpus things get… interesting.

A prime (and bad) example of learning though is when Microsoft birthed a bot named Tay earlier this year, a Twitter bot that the company described as an experiment in \”conversational understanding.\” Microsoft engineers said,

The chatbot was created in collaboration between Microsoft\’s Technology and Research team and its Bing team…
Tay\’s conversational abilities were built by \”mining relevant public data\” and combining that with input from editorial staff, including improvisational comedians.\”

The bot was supposed to learn and improve as it talks to people, so theoretically it should become more natural and better at understanding input over time.

Sounds really neat doesn\’t it?

What happened was completely unexpected. Apparently by interacting with Twitter for a mere 24 hours (!!) it learned to be a completely raging, well, asshole.

Not only did it aggregate, parse, and repeat what some people tweeted – it actually came up with it\’s own \”creative\” answers, such as the one below in response to the perfectly innocent question posed by one user – \”Is Ricky Gervais an atheist?\”:

\"ai-bot\"

Tay hadn\’t developed a full fledge position on ideology yet though, before they pulled the plug. In 15 hours it referred to feminism both as a \”cult\” and a \”cancer,\” as well as \”gender equality = feminism\” and \”i love feminism now.\” Tweeting \”Bruce Jenner\” at the bot got similar mixed response, ranging from \”caitlyn jenner is a hero & is a stunning, beautiful woman!\” to the transphobic \”caitlyn jenner isn\’t a real woman yet she won woman of the year?\”. None of which were phrases it had been asked to repeat….so no real understanding of what it was saying. Yet.

And in a world where increasingly the words are the only thing needed to get people riled up – this could easily be an effective \”news\” bot, on an opinion / biased site.

Artificial Intelligence is a very, very big subject. Morality (roboethics) will play a large role in this topic in the future (hint: google “Trolley Problem”): if an AI driven car has to make a quick decision to either drive off a cliff (killing the passenger) or hit a school bus full of children, how is that decision made and whose ethical framework makes that decision (yours? the car manufacturers? your insurance company\’s?) Things like that. It\’s a big enough subject area that Facebook, Google and Amazon have partnered to create a nonprofit together around the subject of AI, which will “advance public understanding” of artificial intelligence and to formulate “best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.”

If these three partner on something, you can be sure it\’s because it is a big, serious subject.

AI is not only being used to have conversations, but ultimately to create systems that will learn and physically act. The military (DARPA) is one of the heavy researchers into Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Will future wars be run by computers, making their own decisions? Will we be able to intervene? How will we be able to control the ideological platforms they might develop without our knowledge, and how will we communicate with these supercomputers – if it is already so difficult to communicate assumptions? Will they be interested in our participation?

Reminds me a little bit of Leeloo in the Fifth Element, learning how horrible humans have have been to each other and giving up on humanity completely.

There\’s even a new twist in the AI story:  researchers at Google Brain, Google\’s research division for machine deep learning have built neural networks that when, properly tasked and over the course of 15,000 tries, have become adept at developing their own simple encryption technique that only they can share and understand. And the human researchers are officially baffled how this happened. 

Neural nets are capable of all this because they are computer networks modeled after the human brain. This is what’s fascinating with AI aggregate technologies, like deep learning. It keeps getting better, learning on its own, with some even capable of self training.

We truly are at just the beginning of what we thought was reserved for only humans.  Complex subject indeed.

And one last note to think upon…machine learning and automation are going to slowly but surely continue (because they already are) to take over jobs that humans did/do. Initially it\’s been manufacturing automation; but as computers become intelligent and learning, they will replace nearly everything, including creative, care taking, legal, medical and strategic jobs –  things that most people would like to believe are \”impossible\” to replace by robots.

And they are clearly not. While the best performing model is AI + a human, there will still be far fewer humans needed across the board.

If the recent election is any indication of how disgruntled the lack of jobs and high unemployment is causing, how much worse will it be when 80% of the adult workforce is unnecessary? What steps are industries, education and the government taking to identify how humans can stay relevant, and ensure that the population is prepared? – I\’d submit, little to none.

While I don\’t have the answers, I would like be part of the conversation.

Authentic belongingness: Community, context and culture in a digital world

Belongingness: The human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, or a sports team, humans have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. The motive to belong is the need for \”strong, stable relationships with other people.\”  

Birds flock, fish school, humans….? What do humans do? It\’s something I\’m always thinking about. What are we hardwired for? It\’s relevant to technology opportunities since to tap into them requires understanding what the human animal needs/wants at a primal level and then servicing those needs.

And my conclusion is that – of all the animals in the kingdom we are most like (get ready for it): wolves.

The similarities are interesting. We are both pack animals, with defined groups we belong to. Groups that have internal social heirarchies (alpha dogs, literally or metaphorically) and a constant struggle for some individuals to be that \”alpha\”. Groups that can be vicious to outsiders, or to those members who violate the \”rules\”.  Rules that are for the most part, completely (in the wolves\’ case, totally) unwritten.

\"\"These rules and group norms are called \”culture\”. And although we don\’t typically bite, both groups punish members who transgress those rules.

So I find it fascinating to watch how these hardwired behaviors impact on the evolution of virtual communities. Are the behaviors shown there really so different?

We seek out like minded people, with whom we share interests or values. On Facebook – are you \”friends\” similar to you? I always think of it as various circles I\’m in. I have my techie friends, my political friends, etc etc. And within a few shades of gray, they align reasonably closely with my own interests, thinking and/or philosophy.

But occasionally someone will meander into a conversation, a friend of a friend from another circle, who doesn\’t know the inherent \”rules\” (everyone here is an atheist, and a conservative christian with wander in, for example), and proceed to disagree. Wham! The group typically shuts down the conversation. They didn\’t know the rules. How dare they enter. Tempers flare, words are written. It never ends up pretty. I regularly hear from a wide variety of people that the vitriol is  \”getting\” to them.

So let\’s be honest, there\’s not a huge amount of open minded learning-type discussions on Facebook. For the most part it\’s either you\’re \”hanging out\” with people who already have a fair amount of overlap with your own ideas (or you knew them in junior high and couldn\’t turn down their friend request). Which contradicts what you probably THOUGHT a social place like Facebook would  (should?) be.

I wish it were a place of learning and expanding. Instead it\’s interestingly becoming the opposite. Because human nature congregates and puts up walls, creating outsiders. The medium might champion (apparent) transparency, but human nature is doing exactly the opposite.

I use my own progression of involvement in social networking to illustrate.

Initially, like many, I friended lots of people outside my comfort zone. I figured that – a  la a traditional cocktail party – I\’d mix with lots of different types. After all, I consider myself fairly open minded; I might not agree with you, but I\’m interested in why you think what you think, and thought I might learn something, hear a different point of view, expand my horizons, kumbayah kumbayah. I think many exuberantly flocked with the same excitement; even my dad (the original Mr. Magoo himself) had heard, and was curious to try, Facebook.

I hesitantly dipped my toes in the social water, tentatively, politely, diplomatically, in well-brought-up style not reacting, contradicting, or challenging – but found instead is that it\’s virtually impossible to stay on the fence and be \”myself\”. As time went on (and one pugnacious twat interaction too many), I started culling the pack, so to speak. And have been left with circles (groups) of people who\’s values – within a few shades of gray – fairly closely already align with my own.

Which is a cop out, at least in my theoretical head. I\’ve migrated to what is by my own definition being a bit close minded and occasionally (and I hate to admit it, but fair is fair) slightly (ok, I can\’t admit to more) adversarial….and contradicts the way I *actually* like to think about myself. Perhaps it\’s the subjects; social networking does seem to easily stray into subjects that were nary discussed with strangers until its advent (sex? politics? money? religion? how about all of the above?) – the transparency of the medium disallowing non engagement, perhaps. But for whatever reason, I\’m clearly \”there\”.

I hesitate (nay, reject! don\’t worry) to say that it\’s possible to generalize entire humanity\’s hardwiring based on looking only at myself as a petrie dish and am aware of the pitfalls in even mentioning myself as an example.

But I use it to illustrate what I\’ve noticed going on all around me: from Facebook comments to online communities around a wide variety of interest / subjects / philosophies, people self form into groups where their own behaviors / morals / values are reflected, create a set of \”rules\” around behaviors there as naturally (and unthinkingly) as breathing, and gravitate towards situations where they do not feel their own inherent values are challenged.

We know the rules, the culture – the unwritten language – and drift to where we are comfortable. And I do think we are hardwired to do this; throughout history, humans have clumped together into (wolf like) communities, either physically or interest-based (or both), and are now adding virtually to the list of ways to connect.

So if each virtual group is creating it\’s own \”culture\”, and we humans tend to reject what isn\’t part of our \”group\”, how do you get your brand message heard? Or more to the point, how do you get people to interact with you?

Particularly if (as I believe) traditional \”push\” advertising as we currently know it will increasingly fail in this new world, as people become more and more spoiled used to streaming whatever they want on demand, sitting through enforced messaging will become less and less palatable – plus technology will enable them to choose what they want, when they want it, not on a predetermined schedule.

So they\’ll be ignoring your messaging, if done the traditional way. No more commercial break during your regularly scheduled programming. Other than, perhaps, live sports events.

It means that brands will have to become \”friends\” so to speak. They have to be responsive. They have to have 3D personalities, much like taking a brand and creating a restaurant \”experience\” requires re-imagining what the brands feels like, and translating that to interior decor.

But it will have to feel \”authentic\” to the person who\’s group you\’re trying to woo; you\’ll have to use their language, their timing, their norms, their rhythms; you\’ll have create the kind of interaction they expect, and to do that requires constant learning and feedback loops.

Because otherwise, just like wolves, you\’ll be snapped at and kicked out. Which will require a new way to analyze and learn the nuances of how we\’re talking to each other (along with how we talked (channel), where, when, etc – see my previous entry The Borogoves are a\’ Mimsying for a deeper explanation).

Traditional database analysis – where columns and rows are predetermined and the data fits neatly into the categories you set up – won\’t work anymore. Because the data will be people talking, using their own, private jargon with their own, group context/frame of reference (culture). The things that go unspoken that everyone just knows – a common frame of reference. These things lubricate our every interaction, seamlessly, without even a moment\’s notice for the most part. Even when you interact with someone from a really different culture – because you\’re both so trained to only think from your own frame of reference, that usually you don\’t even think to ask what their assumptions are (even if they could articulate them). It\’s the water we swim in, either unknowingly, or by choice.

And as each group has their own jargon and context, it become impossible to standardize…and add even another layer on top, language itself is so imprecise, imagine trying to explain to a logical, linear computer how to identify sarcasm (you look GREAT!) or indeed, slang \”fat!\” – at least, I think that\’s slang lol. But my own peeps grok me fine.

Our new gadgets create so much information as to make analysis fruitless, and indeed, back to that linear model – these need to be set up properly in the beginning, so if it\’s structured around apples and pears, what do you do when a kumquat walks in? We need ways to have computers that learn from experience and apply that intelligently to a new situation, because programming by anticipating precisely each potential variation when there\’s so much data, is impossible.

Starting to understand just how complex this all is?? Particularly since people are member of multiple groups, both real and virtual, and you\’ll have to get the timing right too. No good talking sports appropriate language when your customer is in helping his kids with homework mode.

I\’m hearing all over the place that this kind of insight analysis (based on learning algorithms – some call it \”artificial intelligence\”, or heuristic learning) vs linear analysis is indeed the next frontier; the limits of how far we can push the way data and analytics has always been done. And many are trying; there are fortunes to be made here.

So Skynet, here we come. Although I\’d argue sentience is a far cry from learning abilities (I know not all agree…that\’s for another day). So I wouldn\’t be worried about those computer overlords just yet (Geek humor! – my group will \”get\” it!).

The Borogoves are a\’ Mimsying: Marketing in a hyper-connected world

I’ve been thinking a lot about the long term impact an ”instantaneous, on demand” life. Imagine that from birth, you never had to wait for anything, and had everything you wanted delivered immediately. News, entertainment, connecting with your \”group\” – everything.  Never getting lost. The collective knowledge of the human race there for you at all times. How would this shape your assumptions and expectations?

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Because this is what\’s happening to the generation being born. My nephew is almost 2. What struck me is how – without any real language skills yet (my sister would disagree) he tells her what he wants to watch, and when.  He \”requests\” Blue Clues over, and over (and over) again. The concept of watching something on schedule – and waiting for it, and not choosing which episode, is completely unfamiliar to him. If it\’s not on when he wants it, he gets very, very angry.

So clearly, his brain is being trained to work differently than yours or mine. It reminds me of the 1943 short story \”Mimsy Were the Borogoves\” by Lewis Padgett, where an alien toy from the future is found by children and in the course of playing with them, they become \”re-educated\” to think differently.

Reality for him is a world where he will be completely connected to everyone he\’s ever known, and (personalized) information, interaction, engagement, and entertainment will be fed to him how he likes it, and never more than a few seconds away.

What assumptions will he develop – as inherent to his interaction with the world as breathing? How will this quintessentially change the relationship he has with products and brands? And from a business point of view, how do you make sure your products and services are the \”right\” ones so that your company can successfully deliver what he will not just demand, but expect without thinking?

Well, for one: immediate gratification is a given. Patience will no longer be a virtue, when waiting is never necessary. So everything must be available immediately, and immediately relevant. This means devices that are never off, always connected to a information delivery infrastructure (10G?) with enough bandwidth (no doubt, an antiquated term by then) to deliver immediately.

It also means that accessing masses of data and instantaneously extrapolating what he likes, then projecting what he should like. Ultimately, continuing to learn who he is, then fine tuning that knowledge at an algorithmic rate will be a requirement, not an option.

Brands / companies will need to mine/model all the data they have about your preferences and past interactions to instantaneously tailor on-the-fly experiences for you. And woe betide the brand that guesses wrong – it will feel as inauthentic to him as a \”real\” inauthentic interaction does to you today.

And my guess is, he\’ll have short patience for a brand interaction that doesn\’t feel right. So branding in the future will be about creating entire experiences – including real time interactions (suggestions, whimsy, connections) just like a real friend would. A virtual concierge, as it were.

It will require a conflux of inputs, working together (and seamlessly) to create the experience he expects, and demands. So to hijack the traditional \”Who, What, Where, When, Why, How\” model, this is what the brave new world of branding and marketing will have to master:

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Becoming interactive with him will require that your brand becomes a \”friend\”, someone who knows what you and your friends like, what you\’re talking about, and how to be there in the right manner. You\’ll need to deliver the information you want him to see and engage with in a manner that he wants:

  • Does he prefer text? Voice? Articles? RSS feeds? Audio? Something else? A mix of these? What are his preferences? When does he interact the most?
  • Snippets of info throughout the day? Is he an information snacker, grabbing bits in between other activities, or does he prefer to set aside a stretch of time to catch up on everything?
  • Does this behavior change depending on whether it\’s a week day or weekend? Is he more receptive in the morning, or night? Can you ensure that you\’re there at the right time?
  • Where is he? Close by? Is the message immediately relevant (is he nearby)? How close? Half an hour? Half a week?
  • Has he done something relevant in the past? Can you discern a pattern and overlay it on the present?
  • Who are his friends? Influencers? Who does he rely on for information? Opinion? Does he listen to different groups of friends depending on the situation, or product (fashion friends, tech friends, etc)?
  • What communities is he a part of? Active? Passive? Are these relevant to your brand? Who is he connected to there? This is the social networking part of the equation, where you mine his activity and network for insights an influence.

The friends/connection influencer role will increasingly be critical, as the only way for a brand to reach a consumer in the future will be through engagement with them AND the people they listen to. I personally believe the \”push\” model of advertising that we\’ve all grown up with (billboards, print ads, television) will continue to atrophy in influence as people who\’ve only ever, in the face of overwhelming messaging / branding, listen to \”trusted advisors\” – their own connections.

The list can go on, but obviously things are increasingly difficult as a marketer. It\’s no longer about your brand, your market, your positioning, your message, and placing your message – it\’s all about creating *true* context, meaning, authenticity. On your customer\’s terms. I\’m calling it Six Dimension Marketing. Marshall McLuhen said the medium is the message – in this case, the time, place, and context are too.

The brand challenge is/will be to facilitate meaningful engagements, and keep it going. Because by continuous listening and learning, the opportunity exists for a long and fruitful relationship. The barriers to creating a meaningful relationship with customers will be higher, but so will the barriers to exit.

So once again, technology will have the opposite effect many expected; instead of being a a great equalizer of opportunity, it will take more money/savvy / strategic creativity than ever to stay competitive….although I welcome seeing some of the \”In Culture Marketing\” (grassroots) that will emerge, that smaller brands can take advantage of (as well as some of the savvier larger brands). We\’re just at the beginning of truly disruptive times for how business is \”done\” – all the things we \”know\” and grew up with are changing, and while it scares some, I personally find it exhilarating. Strap in for the ride!

The Borogoves are a\’ Mimsying: Marketing in a hyper-connected world

I’ve been thinking a lot about the long term impact an ”instantaneous, on demand” life. Imagine that from birth, you never had to wait for anything, and had everything you wanted delivered immediately. News, entertainment, connecting with your \”group\” – everything.  Never getting lost. The collective knowledge of the human race there for you at all times. How would this shape your assumptions and expectations?

\"\"

Because this is what\’s happening to the generation being born. My nephew is almost 2. What struck me is how – without any real language skills yet (my sister would disagree) he tells her what he wants to watch, and when.  He \”requests\” Blue Clues over, and over (and over) again. The concept of watching something on schedule – and waiting for it, and not choosing which episode, is completely unfamiliar to him. If it\’s not on when he wants it, he gets very, very angry.

So clearly, his brain is being trained to work differently than yours or mine. It reminds me of the 1943 short story \”Mimsy Were the Borogoves\” by Lewis Padgett, where an alien toy from the future is found by children and in the course of playing with them, they become \”re-educated\” to think differently.

Reality for him is a world where he will be completely connected to everyone he\’s ever known, and (personalized) information, interaction, engagement, and entertainment will be fed to him how he likes it, and never more than a few seconds away.

What assumptions will he develop – as inherent to his interaction with the world as breathing? How will this quintessentially change the relationship he has with products and brands? And from a business point of view, how do you make sure your products and services are the \”right\” ones so that your company can successfully deliver what he will not just demand, but expect without thinking?

Well, for one: immediate gratification is a given. Patience will no longer be a virtue, when waiting is never necessary. So everything must be available immediately, and immediately relevant. This means devices that are never off, always connected to a information delivery infrastructure (10G?) with enough bandwidth (no doubt, an antiquated term by then) to deliver immediately.

It also means that accessing masses of data and instantaneously extrapolating what he likes, then projecting what he should like. Ultimately, continuing to learn who he is, then fine tuning that knowledge at an algorithmic rate will be a requirement, not an option.

Brands / companies will need to mine/model all the data they have about your preferences and past interactions to instantaneously tailor on-the-fly experiences for you. And woe betide the brand that guesses wrong – it will feel as inauthentic to him as a \”real\” inauthentic interaction does to you today.

And my guess is, he\’ll have short patience for a brand interaction that doesn\’t feel right. So branding in the future will be about creating entire experiences – including real time interactions (suggestions, whimsy, connections) just like a real friend would. A virtual concierge, as it were.

It will require a conflux of inputs, working together (and seamlessly) to create the experience he expects, and demands. So to hijack the traditional \”Who, What, Where, When, Why, How\” model, this is what the brave new world of branding and marketing will have to master:

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Becoming interactive with him will require that your brand becomes a \”friend\”, someone who knows what you and your friends like, what you\’re talking about, and how to be there in the right manner. You\’ll need to deliver the information you want him to see and engage with in a manner that he wants:

  • Does he prefer text? Voice? Articles? RSS feeds? Audio? Something else? A mix of these? What are his preferences? When does he interact the most?
  • Snippets of info throughout the day? Is he an information snacker, grabbing bits in between other activities, or does he prefer to set aside a stretch of time to catch up on everything?
  • Does this behavior change depending on whether it\’s a week day or weekend? Is he more receptive in the morning, or night? Can you ensure that you\’re there at the right time?
  • Where is he? Close by? Is the message immediately relevant (is he nearby)? How close? Half an hour? Half a week?
  • Has he done something relevant in the past? Can you discern a pattern and overlay it on the present?
  • Who are his friends? Influencers? Who does he rely on for information? Opinion? Does he listen to different groups of friends depending on the situation, or product (fashion friends, tech friends, etc)?
  • What communities is he a part of? Active? Passive? Are these relevant to your brand? Who is he connected to there? This is the social networking part of the equation, where you mine his activity and network for insights an influence.

The friends/connection influencer role will increasingly be critical, as the only way for a brand to reach a consumer in the future will be through engagement with them AND the people they listen to. I personally believe the \”push\” model of advertising that we\’ve all grown up with (billboards, print ads, television) will continue to atrophy in influence as people who\’ve only ever, in the face of overwhelming messaging / branding, listen to \”trusted advisors\” – their own connections.

The list can go on, but obviously things are increasingly difficult as a marketer. It\’s no longer about your brand, your market, your positioning, your message, and placing your message – it\’s all about creating *true* context, meaning, authenticity. On your customer\’s terms. I\’m calling it Six Dimension Marketing. Marshall McLuhen said the medium is the message – in this case, the time, place, and context are too.

The brand challenge is/will be to facilitate meaningful engagements, and keep it going. Because by continuous listening and learning, the opportunity exists for a long and fruitful relationship. The barriers to creating a meaningful relationship with customers will be higher, but so will the barriers to exit.

So once again, technology will have the opposite effect many expected; instead of being a a great equalizer of opportunity, it will take more money/savvy / strategic creativity than ever to stay competitive….although I welcome seeing some of the \”In Culture Marketing\” (grassroots) that will emerge, that smaller brands can take advantage of (as well as some of the savvier larger brands). We\’re just at the beginning of truly disruptive times for how business is \”done\” – all the things we \”know\” and grew up with are changing, and while it scares some, I personally find it exhilarating. Strap in for the ride!

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