25 June 2015

The thinker and the shopper: Four ways cognitive technologies add value to consumer products

The time could be ripe for consumers and consumer products companies to embrace cognitive technologies, which can offer companies ways to deliver benefits to consumers to a greater degree than previously possible.

Cognitive technologies can give makers of household goods new ways to create value for consumers like Isabella. These technologies, derived from the field of artificial intelligence (AI), can enhance the consumer experience across the purchase life cycle, from pre-store planning through the in-store experience, product usage, and post-purchase interaction.

Many companies are employing cognitive technologies across a wide range of product categories, from durables to staples. The technologies are being embedded in consumer electronics and appliances, for instance, to enable them to seem to see, hear, and think. But while cognitive technologies can create compelling new opportunities for makers of household goods, they should not be applied as merely bells and whistles. Brands can make smart choices about where and how to apply cognitive technologies by understanding the four principal ways they can create value for consumers.

Cognitive technologies currently in use include:
  • Computer vision: The ability of computers to identify objects, scenes, and activities in unconstrained (i.e., naturalistic) visual environments
  • Machine learning: The ability of computer systems to improve their performance by exposure to data without the need to follow explicitly programmed instructions
  • Natural language processing (NLP): The ability of computers to work with text the way humans do—for instance, extracting meaning from text or even generating text that is readable, stylistically natural, and grammatically correct
  • Speech recognition: The ability to automatically and accurately transcribe human speech
  • Optimization: The ability to automate complex decisions and trade-offs about limited resources
  • Planning and scheduling: The ability to automatically devise a sequence of actions to meet goals and observe constraints
  • Rules-based systems: The ability to use databases of knowledge and rules to automate the process of making inferences about information
  • The broader field of robotics is also embracing cognitive technologies to create robots that can work alongside, interact with, assist, or entertain people. Such robots can perform many different tasks in unpredictable environments, integrating cognitive technologies such as computer vision and automated planning with tiny, high-performance sensors, actuators, and hardware.
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