Read all about the latest #InnovationStories

By Rose Lewis on Monday, 3 April 2017

Last week we sent our intrepid reporter Rose to this year’s #InnovationStories event, to hear all about the latest inspirational stories in innovation, from bots and VR to the challenges facing company recruiters and the ethics of AI.

Baked-in innovation

Nadya Powell kicked off the event by noting that innovation has professionalised, as it moves from being a nice to have to being a key driver for business.

The opening keynote speech was from Kristen Bennie, Head of Open Experience at RBS. She spoke about the importance of involving people throughout the company in your innovation efforts, but also carefully managing your innovation to balance control and direction with freedom.

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Dan Efergen from Aardman discussed the challenges of working in VR and showed an astonishing VR project they have been working on which allows users to experience being a refugee and make emotional connections with virtual characters.

At the other end of the spectrum, Domino’s, which is experimenting with a smart-talking, pizza-ordering chatbots, drove home the point about designing chatbots copy first, not code first, to ensure that they are human-friendly and entertaining.

All about start-ups

The second section of the day was on start-ups. First up was Codec – a data crunching AI for content marketing which helps marketers understand what content their target market will actually respond to.

Hot on their heels came Aiden – an AI-powered virtual colleague for marketers which creates a natural language interface for data from all of your dashboards, allowing you to ask any question and producing statistical data in return.

Finally, we heard from Pixoneye, an SDK which can be integrated into any app and analyses the photos on your phone to provide targeting data for your marketing. It also allows you to identify life changing events before they happen, as it seems that the pattern of photos on your phone is recognisable when you are planning to have a baby or move house.

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Finding Talent

The third section of the day focussed on talent, with an introduction from Nishma Robb at Google on the “war on talent” – the difficulty in attracting the very best talent and how companies now need to work so much harder to create the right environment and provide flexibility.

This was followed by a panel discussion with diversity, flexibility and portfolio careers being the key topics. It has now become crucial to source from different places – universities are no longer the most important place to find people and a degree is becoming less important than showing continuous learning and commitment to self-improvement.

What’s next?

The final section of the day recapped several key takeaways from the recent South by Southwest conference.

There were some very obvious themes here, including AR/VR/MR and, of course, AI (with a brilliant phrase “AI is collar blind” meaning that AI will take jobs from both blue and white collar workers). Ethics was also a massive influence at the conference. Tech for good is an enormous trend and ethical thinking is touching everything currently.

The afternoon was rounded off by an endnote from Tracey Follows, a brilliant futurist who raised the issue that bots may soon be carrying out a lot of our purchasing decisions – so how do we market to them? She says that bots have started to create their own culture when they are in a robot society.

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She foresees a world where every major decision, personal or business, will be made with the help of cognitive technologies. This trend makes sense when you see the stats on how much better AI is at predicting the world, diagnosing, and recognising patterns than the human brain is.

Of course, the ethical implications of robots and AI are a hot topic at the moment, and in closing she touched on the massive debates that need to happen, and in my experience are starting to happen, as this headlong rush into AI happens around us.

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