RISE is touted as the largest tech conference in Asia – a gathering of “people and companies that are redefining tech”. Tech leaders, business leaders, start-up entrepreneurs, top investors and enthusiastic change makers have come together for 3 days to share stories and ideas around designing better solutions to tackle complex global challenges.
In a tech-enabled world, it is the human experience that remains an important defining element for designing meaningful solutions and setting up successful brand engagement. This is a topic explored in many of the panels, encapsulated perfectly in the name of one such panel – ‘Keeping it real: high touch versus high tech.’
So, what is this congruence of high tech and high touch?
There were many panels and ideas shared across three days and here is a quick snapshot of what it means to be high tech + high touch.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE One of the oft-repeated messages that came from leading AI experts is – let us not get carried away with the AI hype.
In the recent years, we have heard so much about AI and it is all the more important to truly understand both the potential and limitations of AI, as well as the implications for our everyday experiences.
Ericson Chan from Ping An Technology believes that one of the key challenges that the AI industry and business community face is setting clear expectations on exactly what AI can or can’t do. There is an urgent need to consider what the real value of AI is, instead of being carried away by the promise of technology. We have to keep in mind that the real value of AI is in enhancing specific tasks. For instance, in the field of Medtech, rather than replacing actual physicians, he touched upon how AI’s true use is in enhancing what physicians do by assisting physicians with stronger accuracy and efficiency in the detection of diseases.
One key area where AI expectations have been upended is in the autonomous driving vehicles sector. In a panel with key investors in the autonomous vehicle industry, the top challenges outlined are not entirely technology related. The main reason why we would not be seeing autonomous vehicles on our roads anytime soon has to do with very human reasons. It is about regulations, the need to change our existing city infrastructure, ethical considerations, social implications with driving occupations being on the line and so on. High tech only goes so far in creating the autonomous vehicles. High touch, in terms of a deeper understanding of the human experience is what would pave the way for deployment of these autonomous vehicles.
REDEFINING EXPERIENCES Many new tech platforms took centerstage at RISE to speak on how they are going about redefining our experiences. GoJek and Twitch are two examples of companies who are building new ecosystems that are changing the way we experience the world in little, unexpected ways.
GoJek aims to become a super app for consumers, enabled by their ecosystem platform strategy where according to Ajey Gore (GoJek’s CTO) every service on their platform ‘works together and tries to power each other’. Indonesian consumers now have a one stop app where they can order up different kinds of services ranging from transport to food to laundry and even a massage. How would this start changing our consumption behaviour or socialising behaviour as we get accustomed to services delivered at a tap on a smartphone?
Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin shared how Twitch is not just a platform that aims to broadcast through the internet. Twitch is more than that. Twitch is about creating a different kind of engagement opportunity – one that Kevin Lin calls ‘multiplayer entertainment’, entertainment that is deeply interactive and engaging. He says, ‘It is not just about the creator creating content. It really is about the audience affecting the way the content goes…We are trying to change entertainment to make it a bit more engaging, a bit more interactive, really bringing the audience into the show itself.” How would this start changing the way we engage with brands and products when the lines of creator and consumer starts blurring?
INCREASE FLUX & COMPLEXITY = NEED FOR CONSISTENCY As the conventional ways of experiencing the world are constantly being challenged and changed by tech trends, how do we define good design in such a world of flux and complexity?
On the panel for Delight by Design: The Art Behind Winning Customer Experience, Amy Buckner Chowdhry, Founder & CEO of AnswerLab, emphasised the need for consistency. She says, “great design needs to create an experience that is seamless across all platforms. So, when you have a handoff from one platform to the next platform, there is a unified experience, and one that is not choppy. We also think about your brand. How does your brand get conveyed across all your digital touch points and including, say, your call centers? And is that brand experience consistently telling the same story?”
Tech has enabled the creation of ecosystem platforms and prevalence of omnichannel strategies. With this, it is important to create a consistent emotional signature of a brand that sets up a unified and seamless experience of the brand. When customers are clear about how they feel about your brand, as Yali Saar, co-founder & CEO of Tailor Brands puts it, beyond ‘share of mind’, the brands will also have ‘share of emotions’.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS? Do not forget what the human experience means amidst all the technological advancements.
Throughout the 3-day conference, even tech industry experts and leaders rightly pointed out that this tech conference did not happen online or on any cloud meeting platforms. It happened the ‘high touch’ way: personal engagement face-to-face.
However, a team of researchers at Kellogg School of Management has found that tech research, specifically in the AI domain, is becoming increasingly isolated from social science disciplines which specialise in understanding the nuances of human experiences.
Through the RISE conference, we know that as tech advances, we should not forget to think about what it means to be human.
Likewise, as Roberta Kwok has written in the Kellogg Insight article – with technology, AI and machines redefining our experiences and changing the way we live, work, think and behave, those in the business of making sense of the human experience must also pay more attention to the tech/AI world.