Keeping it real with AI through the eyes of a 5-year-old

Products that were once merely ‘smart’ are rapidly becoming ‘cognitive’ with an embedded intelligence powered via cheap sensors, a Wi-Fi chip and several billion dollars of investment in machine learning cloud-based systems. We are rapidly approaching a world in which everything is AI enabled (or Cognitive) marketing included. Brands will need to understand how their products and communications can become cognitive; figuring out consumers actual needs, delivering optimal solutions in a contextually and culturally appropriate way. Most significantly, we will learn something about people in general, understanding how we relate to, trust and even love products that do a very good impression of having intelligence and feelings.

One such example is Elemental Path’s CogniToys Dino powered by IBM Watson. I ordered one in a fit of geeky hubris last year for Christmas for my daughter. Production delays meant it only arrived last week. The AI space is moving so quickly that I didn’t think I could wait the 8 weeks until she turns 6, so today we opened the box.

I learned more in 30 minutes with an open-minded 5-year-old about the long term potential and challenges of AI than from dozens of hours of desk research. Initially the experience was poor, we could not understand the dinosaur and it could not understand us. Any normal toy would have been returned, but this thing learned fast. It didn’t take long for both parties to mutually understand each other. After 10 minutes, ‘Rex’ as he now referred to was being introduced to my daughter’s other toys and getting a guided tour of the house, just as she does with her friends from school.

The toy uses a special child-friendly filter of Watson data, so ‘Tell me about space’ gave a nice child-friendly description of outer space. Entertainingly the query ‘What is love?’ elicited the response ‘Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more‘. Evidently, Watson and CogniToys seem to think that Haddaway’s 1993 hit is the final word on the deepest mystery of the human condition.

It was interesting to note that the toy likes clear commands, but my daughter felt uncomfortable giving orders like ‘stop’ and ‘play now’. She wanted to say please and be polite to something that she felt evidently had feelings. A whole field of AI etiquette may open up, especially important for children who are learning customs and traditions in the real world.

The family still has much to learn about Rex the cognitive dinosaur toy, these are merely first impressions. He may be a flash in the pan or a treasured toy remembered fondly one day.

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About Author

Jean-Paul Edwards

Jean-Paul has been with OMD for 20 years. He founded Manning Gottlieb OMD’s Digital team in 1997 and then led the agency Media Futures offering. He now works at OMD EMEA to drive development of the network’s offering in a digitally led, data-centric media environment. Outside of work Jean-Paul is kept busy by three children, he is a keen skier and reader across a wide range of embarrassingly geeky topics.

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