A brown-eyed woman with a toothy smile made headlines last year when she received her citizenship to Saudi Arabia. Only, the woman isn’t human—she’s a robot named Sophia and is the first of her kind to be dubbed a real citizen. Created by Hanson Robotics, Sophia is a social, humanlike robot that uses a mix of artificial intelligence (a simulation of human intelligence by machines), visual data processing and facial recognition to imitate human gestures, respond during conversation and get smarter over time.
Sophia’s appearances in the press and at events (yes, you can book her as a speaker) has sparked a discussion on the not-so-distant future of AI and the implications it will have on humanity. In reality, AI has been creeping its way into businesses and daily operations for years, including in the events world.
“Many planners are still assuming artificial intelligence is something the future holds for us,” says Jim Spellos, owner of Meeting U. and educator in event technologies. “The truth is that its impact is being felt already, and is changing how we do our business.” Here are five ways AI is already making its mark on the lives of event planners, and how to use it.
Look, Ma! No Hands!
TSA checkpoints and delayed flights aside, lugging bags and suitcases around the airport is one of the most annoying parts of travel. But thanks to artificial intelligence, navigating through terminals is now a little easier with Travelmate, a fully autonomous suitcase and robot that follows you wherever you go—no hands necessary. The companion suitcase syncs with your phone so it knows what to follow, and uses AI to match your speed, navigate large crowds and avoid bumping into objects along the way. Traveling nearly 7 mph, Travelmate moves vertically and horizontally with wheels that turn 360 degrees for seamless movement. It also has a USB port to charge your devices, GPS tracking so you always know where it is and a touch-enabled lock that requires your fingerprint to open. Travelmate comes in three sizes—small (carry-on), medium and large—with prices starting at $1,100.
Ask Me Anything
Artificial intelligence already has a footprint in the events industry, largely through chatbots: automated tools designed to interact with and offer support to customers. These bots use AI to respond and adjust to customers’ needs and navigate through conversions. “On a simple level, the use of chatbots is a perfect opportunity for planners to see firsthand how AI can support their conferences,” says Spellos.
One such chatbot is Concierge EventBot by Sciens.io that’s specifically made for events. Spotted at several BizBash events in 2017, the bot uses text messaging to keep attendees informed on scheduling and other event details. Attendees can simply text it questions like “What time is the opening reception?” or the all-too-common, “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” and the bot will respond for you. Concierge EventBot can also send push notifications with any event updates, and inform you anytime attendees have a question that requires human assistance.
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Rosie, is that you? The sassy robot maid from “The Jetsons” is one step closer to becoming a reality. Hotels are jumping at the opportunity to bring robot maids/butlers to their staff to improve the guest experience. Crowne Plaza, Aloft, Residence Inn, Embassy Suites, Hotel Jen and Luma Hotel are among the brands welcoming Savioke’s fully autonomous Relay robots to select locations around the globe. The Relay bots deliver room service and amenities to guests—simply call the front desk and a human staff member will place your items in the robot’s compartment for delivery. As it approaches your door, the robo-butler will call your room to let you know it’s nearby. It will even chirp and dance for you as a thank-you after you receive your items. Relay robots can operate elevators and navigate crowds, but their best feature is they don’t require tips.
Knight in Shining Armor
Security is an ever-growing concern for the events industry. Planners must have a contingency plan for every scenario these days—whether it be threatening weather conditions or a dangerous person on event grounds. That’s where Knightscope comes in. Available throughout the United States and used at stadiums, malls, hospitals and corporate campuses for companies like Microsoft and Uber, Knightscope’s series of crime-deterring autonomous robots are made to enhance security patrol. Each of the three models (and a fourth in beta testing) is equipped with four cameras for 360-degree video, thermal imaging, license plate and person recognition, two-way audio and weather sensors. The K1 model is stationary and will soon have the ability to detect weapons, while the K3 and K5 models are mobile for indoors or outdoors, respectively.
Place one robot at the entrance to registration, another in the parking lot and another in convention center halls. While the bots can be hired for a mere $7 an hour, the unarmed machines aren’t intended to replace human security guards, who will be needed on-site if a danger does arise. Instead, Knightscope’s bots are made to provide security personnel with real-time information to increase their awareness and help them do their jobs more effectively.
Drowning in Data
Artificial intelligence is often viewed as talk of the future. While much of it is, marketers have been using it for years, likely without even realizing it. In 2008, for example, MailChimp launched its Omnivore system, an abuse-prevention initiative that uses AI to scan every email created on its service to deter spammers.
But AI has increasing potential in data processing—so much so that studies show AI could pose a real threat to the vitality of data-related jobs. Leadspace, for example, is a B2B audience-management platform that, in December 2017, received $21 million to accelerate its research and development. Utilized by brands like Google, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, SAP and many others, Leadspace uses AI to provide predictive intelligence and data to sales and marketing teams that enables them to find, target and engage with customers more effectively. Planners and their teams can use Leadspace to get a more educated prediction on whom to market to, which will in turn increase attendance.