Accessible AI: Don’t Fear the Sequel

Artificial intelligence has entered the scene with gusto. Over a relatively short amount of time, it has taken many forms, including text and image generation via online platforms, as well as search assistance and social media support. Now, the term appears prominently for device shoppers in the market for smartphones, computers and televisions. 

When AI terminology began to float around the everyday world, the awe it inspired came alongside some less-than-positive buzz around things like identity theft and occupation of human-held jobs. Trust is a large component of technology adoption. Despite the apparent novelty of artificial intelligence, viewing AI as a sequel to technology that consumers are already familiar with could mitigate some hesitancy toward its adoption, based on its newness. People became more comfortable with voice assistant usage on multiple devices (smartphones, smart speakers and watches, to name a few) over time. Algorithms have been commonplace in social media for a while now, pushing content to users that is more relevant to them, according to viewing history. In other words, AI is hardly a new concept, but rather, an ever-improving solution that consumers have been using for some time now. We have, for the most part, adapted to this era of data usage and communication with digital platforms, but trust remains a huge necessity. 

According to Circana’s Connected Intelligence studies,15% of consumers who are not interested in owning smart home devices feel hesitant primarily because they do not trust the security of the products in terms of potential hacking, malware, etc., demonstrating the fear that can apply to advanced and unfamiliar technologies. In response to the same question, 18% of people noted that the smart home products don’t seem very useful to them. Cost was the number one factor in their hesitation, with a 21% response rate. Products must address accessibility and purpose to encourage adoption. In some cases, innovation (when seen as justifiably useful) can still drive device upgrades by more than just the eager early adopters. Does AI have what it takes?

As published in the Circana Connected Intelligence Evolving Ecosystem Report, while 52% of smartphone owners use voice prompts on their smartphones, to the number is even higher (62%) for smart home device owners, who have more applications for voice control. While there are a few brands that overlap between smartphones and smart home devices, there are many that do not, which raises the question of whether brand ecosystem matters once usage becomes compatible. With AI being accessible through the cloud, hardware brand choices may continue to be based on user interface preferences, rather than intelligent agents, preventing AI from making or breaking a shopper’s ecosystem adoption. 

As more brands integrate enhanced AI into operating systems, devices and voice assistants, the playing field is leveled, removing AI as a purchase differentiator. Thanks to cloud AI and emerging partnerships, customers can keep their loyalties (whether maintaining one brand’s ecosystem or dipping into multiple across categories) without fear that their chosen items will become obsolete. 

For now, AI remains a new entity. AI capabilities via the cloud or devices are starting to blend into existing functionality with improved speed and seamlessness (e.g., advanced image search, photo editing, voice commands). AI audio responses are beginning to emerge, with more generative features than current voice assistants, but similar user experiences. 5G innovations and availability contribute to enabling cloud AI efficiencies. Down the line, as was the case with past years’ buzz around 5G, there will come a time when consumers don’t need to acknowledge the division between emerging and existing technologies. Today’s marketing of AI as a revolutionary device enhancement may not let that happen so soon, and while transparency is appreciated, when does a buzz word fade to become a part of the everyday jargon? Depending on each consumer’s mindset, AI publicity will either speed up or slow down the adoption of these innovative devices, depending on their level of excitement or hesitancy toward the concept. The most consumer-friendly plan of action for device makers is to emphasize the benefits of AI in ways that draw parallels to existing tech to make prospective customers feel comfortable with, and eager to adopt, change.

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