Marry an augmented-reality hologram, that is. Nowadays, hyper-personalization is taking on new meaning as AR/AI start to power digital assistants
Did you read about a Japanese man in his 30s who married a hologram? In the land of unique fetishes and enchantment with fictitious animated characters, people can get so transfixed on this artform as to call themselves ‘fictosexuals’.
The Japanese man in question had spent US$17,600 for a wedding ceremony in 2018 to marry the hologram of a fictitious pop singer named Miku. The story has a bittersweet ending: in 2020, the producer of the hologram had discontinued its AI service for Miku, leaving the latter quiescent and—well—hollow.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that AI-powered holograms can provide useful services, but when ‘developer divorce’ occurs, their human spouses will still end up high, dry and hollow digitally.
Which brings us to the topic of…
…personal digital concierges. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a concierge is someone in a hotel or service apartment that receives guests, administers hospitality services to them, and even manage the private errands of select clientele.
Some of us may be old enough to remember the days when a hotel concierge would call a taxi for us or provide recommendations on tourist attractions for consideration.
However, with the passing of time, hotels began to use simple non-AI-powered apps to relay guests’ queries and requests to a call center for follow-up. With the attrition of concierge staff, more personalized services have been replaced by smart apps that are not limited to use in hotels, but to any customer service scenario involving a wide array of errands such as ticketing, laundry arrangements, dining reservations and other tasks.
Then, in 2016, one hotel introduced the robotic concierge Connie, created by the Hilton hotel in McLean, in partnership with IBM and powered by AI. Connie greeted guests upon their arrival and enumerated the hotel’s services, amenities, and schedules to curious guests.
Whether in software or AI-powered hardware guise, these concierge apps serve as virtual personal assistants that can perform many guest check-out/checking-in duties, or even help guests to schedule appointments with doctors.
Hotels have deemed such apps to be veritable investments: compared to hiring human concierges, robotic equivalents require lower overheads and allow human resources to be better allocated; and automation leads to less waiting time for guests. Even the customer data collected by concierge apps can be mined for marketing and branding strategies.
In today’s mobile and e-commerce shopping apps, it is common to use digital concierges to analyze customers’ past purchase histories and make sales recommendations and encourage more product discovery.
Merging AI concierges with AR
Perhaps as a natural evolution of digital concierge services, tech firms are now partnering to provide personalization apps with a physical persona.
While concierge apps can reply at the speed of a click to customer’s queries, the hologram will additionally enrich the interaction with natural speech (through natural language processing and conversational AI technology) from a virtual person or even well-known personality.
Think of Luka Doncic or whoever your favorite basketball player may be—ushering you to your seat in the arena. Then transpose the Luka hologram into a hotel desk to converse with fascinated guests: the likelihood is that both the hotel and the customers will be in a win-win situation.
Satisfi Labs’ CEO and co-founder Don White described the concierge hologram as an unprecedented opportunity and predicted that “consumers will be transfixed by the technology and will truly appreciate the ease and intelligent interaction they can have with the hologram.”
For contingency purposes, a facial gesture recognition engine will be used to analyze unwarranted or undesirable reactions from guests, and distressed customers will be handled by actual human staff. After all, we cannot have too many guests ending up falling in love with their virtual concierge.