PHD Media Worldwide > News > Rohan Tambyrajah, Group Strategy Director for PHD Global Business, talks AI, bots and a new stage for content
January 12 2018

Rohan Tambyrajah, Group Strategy Director for PHD Global Business, talks AI, bots and a new stage for content

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“In everyday life, we take thousands of small decisions: what to buy, in what shop, when to load a washing machine. All this takes a lot of energy and time from us. Why not delegate this work to AI and free our time and mind for more important things?”  Rohan Tambyrajah


Every year, information technologies become more accessible. Some 50 years ago, mankind quite safely existed without gadgets – now we live in a world where gadgets play a crucial role. The explosive development of technology, the phenomenally fast scientific and technological progress is one of the main theses of Google technical director and one of the most respected futurists in the world, Ray Kurzweil. Created by PHD Media in co-authorship with Kurzweil: ‘Merge: The closing gap between technology and us’ talks about the digital revolution, the technologies of the future and the direction in which to move the market, media and advertising.

Improvement in machine learning (ML) and the further development of AI will lead to a huge breakthrough in the bots market. ‘Food’ for ML will be ‘large data’ (to date, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), of the 2.8 trillion GB of data available, only 0.5% is used). Bots will become indispensable attributes of any business, and users will be in constant contact with virtual personal assistants (VPAs).

The recognition of oral text by AI will approach 100%, and then the era of verbal communication with machines and gadgets will begin, which will greatly simplify this interaction. Multi-screen will go into the background. Corporations will create entire virtual worlds.

Which of these impressive technologies are we starting to use right now? What fate awaits the traditional creativity and author’s creativity in the era of AI? Why should a person listen to the advice the machine gives, and what’s wrong with Google Glasses? One of the ‘Merge’ contributors, Group Strategy Director for PHD Global Business Rohan Tambyrajah, told TASS.

What technologies will be ‘shot’ in the next couple of years and will radically affect the market? 

Bots are still at a very primitive stage of development. I think this will develop and become more complicated in the coming years. I also expect that soon we will have several interesting cases using mixed-reality (MR) technologies. Perhaps in three years or so, the first really worthwhile virtual reality (VR) glasses will finally come to the market – functional and with a good design – so that people want to wear them. Google Glass, for example, no one wants to wear – they look awful! A breakthrough in smart-eyed technology and design will turn the market around. This will mean that the mass user has switched to portable devices.

 How will the image of the consumer change in five to ten years with the arrival of new technologies and taking into account the change of generations?

The main quality of future consumers (those whom we call Generation Z) will be their openness, willingness to share their data and information about themselves. This openness already exists in social networks; people are not afraid to publish information about themselves and their loved ones there.

However, new consumers will also have the same openness from brands. I think that for the next generation important information about the product will be not so much its utilitarian characteristics, but what it is made of, who made it, in what conditions, whether this product is produced in a giant factory that uses hazardous chemicals and people work in terrible conditions – this information will be important for a new generation, and this is what brands need to pay attention to if they want to be competitive in the future. Of course, this is a challenge for business: how to organise transparent, ethical production and yet not lose money.

Another problem with the future generation is communication: the attention of consumers becomes more fragmented, sprayed into dozens of devices. The ability to focus on one thing is rapidly falling, and through the existing channels of communication it is increasingly difficult to reach the audience. We no longer know how to make effective television advertising; in the second commercial break the viewer switches to surfing their smartphone.

I have noticed one paradoxical thing: every time a new communication channel appears on the market or a new gadget, advertisers – seeing in it a sea of ​​possibilities – rush headlong to master it. In fact, this is a trap: the new device is essentially another device for fragmentation of attention. Before business there is a task: how to build a brand, how to reach the audience through all these channels of communication. I think the solution to this complex problem lies in the ‘big data’ plane and the accuracy of their application.

And how will the content and its role change with the advent of new technologies?

The reason for the rapid success of companies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime is that they create organic content for the digital environment. Content that is targeted at people who spend most of their time online. All Netflix series, for example, have different timings: 27 minutes, 1 hour, 12 minutes. This was not possible in the era of television, when the length of the episode depended entirely on the broadcast grid and the volume of advertising embedded in the broadcast. Therefore, the first distinctive feature of the new content is that it is sharpened to the digital environment.

The second point is that it will be a product of joint creativity. When Charles Dickens wrote his novels around 100 years ago, he printed them on the principle of the series – separate chapters in newspapers. Between the issues he asked his readers what they liked and what did not, and depending on this feedback, the writer changed the content of his work. Thus, the readers also became co-authors of his novels. I think, in the digital age this will be very clearly expressed.

And finally, the third feature is the personalisation of content. In the pre-digital era it was necessary to create a product that everyone would like without exception. This is a kind of ‘Hollywood’ model, when the author or producer had to guess the desire of the reader or viewer. But with the advent of digital technology, it suddenly became apparent that even very specific content could be popular. Having received millions of views on YouTube is the most obvious confirmation of this. Thanks to ‘great data’, we quite objectively understand what people want and do not want. A well-known example is the first online series to win an Emmy – House of Cards. In the process of working Netflix studied the audience, their reactions to the characters and celebrities participating in the project – the series was adjusted ‘on the go’ depending on the preferences of the audience.

Does this mean that content creators partially delegate their authority to the audience? Can you imagine what would have happened if JK Rowling in the course of writing the Harry Potter book series, gave the readers the opportunity to ‘correct’ the storyline? What would then be left of the almost ideal structure of the plot and where would the rabid popularity of the saga then be?  

Undoubtedly, there is a difference between the individual vision of the writer and what the crowd says. No one should cancel the author’s talent and point of view. With Harry Potter I don’t think the structure and the plot should have been given to the audience, but minor elements, minor characters and other less significant details could be controlled by readers. A thousand readers could help one author write a good book. Why not? I’m talking about the evolution of the whole model. Obviously, feedback from the audience helps to improve content, make it more exciting and at the same time close to the audience.

How far has technology advanced in personalising content?

Far enough. Let me tell you about Google Now in my smartphone. All the content that appears here is fully tuned to me: news feed, weather forecast, etc. Analysing my data, Google offers me solutions. For example, a couple of days ago, after work, I went to the supermarket to decide what to cook for dinner. Google on GPS, meanwhile, has already determined that I went to the supermarket, analysed the time and the day of the week (it’s the evening, I’ve finished work, I probably do not have the energy for a lengthy creation), the recipes in my previous search queries (i.e. my culinary preferences) and offered me options and a list of products for making very simple and fast meals.

But all people are different: mood, needs, changing circumstances. Isn’t it difficult for AI to try to give advice to a living person?

In everyday life, we take thousands of small decisions: what to buy, in what shop, when to load a washing machine. All this takes a lot of energy and time from us. Why not delegate this work to AI and free our time and mind for more important things?

Moreover, this story is not so much about trying to interpret behaviour and predicting desires, but about how much AI can help and facilitate a person’s life. After analysing the list of trips in my smartphone, Google offers to order me a taxi to the airport, shows the price, time and route of the trip and the exact time when I need to leave the house so as not to be late for the flight. Or another example: in the store, many people often choose the cheapest products, I do myself. The machine can analyse the prices in the supermarket and pick up the most budgetary brand from the line presented there.

All these systems using AI will develop or stall, depending on how accurately the machine will be able to calculate the user’s needs. So far, I must admit, the system is far from ideal. But as AI ​​gets more information about us, it will improve.


The original article is in Russian and first appeared in


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