SXSW Part 1 - The Bot Revolution

By: MaxMedia

South by Southwest (SXSW) bills itself as the premier place for discovery. Though the event remains focused on the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries, there is no question that the creativity and forward-thinking exhibitions found throughout this year’s event provide insight into how humans and technology will intersect in the coming year.

Naturally, this includes retail – and nowhere was this more apparent than in the SXSW Entertainment Store Experience. In this first part of our two-part recap, we outline some of the key takeaways around automation that we believe could inspire brick-and-mortar retailers to evolve their in-store shopping experiences. 


[fontspecial]Physicality of Entertainment[/fontspecial]

Connectivity and digital interaction are being integrated into those familiar objects that already populate our lives - clothing, furniture, cars, buildings – creating the opportunity for seamless, discrete interactions that reduce our reliance on any single device.

The new Jacquard Commuter jacket Levi’s and Google demonstrated how the Internet of Things (IoT) can turn inanimate objects into an intrinsic part of our everyday life. This jacket enables a biker to talk, navigate and more. This innovation should provide all of us with the inspiration to IoT-enable inanimate objects to create unique store experiences.

The Levi’s pop-up also created a “Music Shed” that celebrated their decades-long ties with Rolling Stone magazine, music and culture. One compelling example from the 80s demonstrated how fans used to trick out their vests to support their punk band of choice. Fans wore them to concerts of competing bands as a passive way to give them the finger.  The end result is that Levi’s proved how brand heritage and authentic stories make for compelling physical fodder.


[fontspecial]Artificial Intelligence[/fontspecial]

The use of Artificial Intelligence is one way to create such moments. One example is in the form of voice-interactivity, and the minds at IBM demonstrated how powerful this application can be.

Most of us have seen the commercials about Watson and its voice-interactivity features. Watson brings the powerful opportunity to speak inanimate objects into existence. In the retail space, imagine how this service can customize the shopping experience based on responses to a few questions.

In fact, IBM provided possible insight into the idea through a machine learning exhibit. At SXSW, the company provided several scenarios of how Watson can transform how humans teach, diagnose, sell and find information. These use cases included:

  • Find your perfect beer by answering three questions
  • Determine your personality by answering five questions
  • Select an emoticon to experience your ideal musical journey

This potentially game-changing experience makes it easier than ever to find the best recommendation or answer to your question – without needing to know you personally. Using Watson as a guiding light, it stresses the power and importance of actively pursuing conversations in retail environments – and relating them to the shopping experience.

[fontspecial]The Bot Revolution[/fontspecial]

IoT and Artificial Intelligence clearly signal a trend toward more automation in our lives. At SXSW, that extended into how Bots are beginning to take shape in our world. As mundane tasks grow more automated, the integration of Bots into our lives will free time for more enjoyable moments.

That’s right, folks: Get ready for The Bot Revolution.

Laundroid’s pop-up demonstrated the world’s first full automatic, laundry-folding and sorting Bot. Using image analysis, AI and robotics as core technology, it represents an ideal example of how automating the mundane can return time to our daily schedules to do more of the things we want.

As MaxMedia works to evolve the retail experience for shoppers, we will look to these examples to innovate automated functions around general customer service functions and more, freeing staff to contribute to a livelier experience that is more fun for the shopper.


[fontspecial]Bringing It All Together[/fontspecial]

Laura Davis-Taylor, MaxMedia EVP Customer Experience, further amplified these messages on a panel around IoT and Shoppertainment, where the unifying theme was how brand experiences must be relevant, contextual and more than status quo. As co-presenter Nathan Tuggle, VP of Multimedia for MGM Resorts, shared from the stage: "We're not in the Entertainment business...we're in the Holy Shit business!"

It’s imperative to create that “Holy Shit” impression at key moments in the shopper’s journey. These examples in IoT, Artificial Intelligence and the Bot Revolution give us excellent fodder to innovate for the future of retail.


IBM Watson Experience Center - Image by Jesus De Fransico via [http://jesusdefrancisco.com/]