Associations have a brand new toy they need to begin to play with – and based on my interpretation of this article from Fast Company – maybe even watch out for.
Since the advent of Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana there have been some remarkable advancements in natural language recognition virtual assistants. Obviously there have been some hiccups along the way, and sometimes Siri can even throw some shade (thanks YouTube :D).
However, there is a new development associations should be keeping a close eye on. The team behind Siri has just announced it’s next generation artificial intelligence – Viv. There are a couple of unique things about Viv.
First – Most of the first generation virtual assistants were originally designed to have a “general knowledge base.” Viv is aiming at going deep and developing expertise around a particular area. Areas used as examples in the Fast Company article include finance and automotive repair. (Insert your members’ jobs here ______________ knowing your-mileage-may-vary).
Second – Viv is smart enough to “write its own programs” on the fly in order to generate answers. This is key. Where some virtual assistants have been “hand-coded” to respond in certain ways to certain questions, Viv listens to the question and then literally writes a program on the fly designed to answer the question more accurately. What this means is, hand-coded answers to inquiries are very much dependent on the question being asked a certain way (and when the question is misinterpreted and you get a bizarre answer hilarity on the Internet ensues). Viv is completely flexible and responsive to natural language. More importantly, this means Viv can scale.
Third – Developers are being given access to build on top of Viv. This is a monumental shift giving developers the power to take Viv down “specialty” rabbit holes.
So what does this mean for our community? I think there are a couple of opportunities and a couple of challenges for us to think about.
Opportunity 1: Associations have the opportunity to partner with developers and perhaps create a Viv that can be a powerful, virtual assistant for your members to refer to as they go about their jobs and their daily lives. What if a member is working on a project in their specific profession and they want a context-specific virtual assistant to help them? If your association provided one of those, your value would be front and center in the mind of your members.
Opportunity 2: Your association can partner with developers to make sure the information being developed in a specialty area is actually accurate. Who has more information about how your jobs run and the information your members need access to on the daily than you?
Challenge 1: What if one of the vendors in your space develops a Viv in order to make themselves more valuable to your membership base? You may find yourselves in competition with your own sponsors, or potentially even some of your own members.
Challenge 2: Let’s break down one of the examples used in the Fast Company article. What if they are successful and they build a deep knowledge automotive repair Viv that can not only help a DIYer diagnose an automotive issue, but walk them through a repair step by step? Maybe even order the requisite parts needed right then and there and have them delivered by drone to their garage (thank you Amazon)? There is literally no limit to the type of deep knowledge a Viv could accumulate and share. Even extremely technical, on-board computer related issues might be handled by a consumer on their own with help from a deep expertise, natural language Viv. What other tasks do your members perform for their customers or clients that might be within range of a DIYer who has access to a complete, accurate and natural language assistant in their phones, mobile devices and coming soon – implants (but that’s a subject for another post :D)?
The bottom line is – Viv could be a game changer. Understanding the potential impact of this advancement is the type of strategic issue your boards should be wrestling with.