Brands that are at the forefront of defining culture have embraced so many of these technologies such as AI, 3D printing, drones, IoT, mixed reality and more, to create better experiences for fans.
Just a few days back at work, there was a discussion on how much fiction has been taken out of science fiction. Tech giants and start-ups have already brought us to a point where technologies once imagined in Star Trek, Terminator and Minority Report are not just possible, but actively in use. Brands that are at the forefront of defining culture have embraced so many of these technologies such as AI, 3D printing, drones, IoT, mixed reality and more, to create better experiences for fans.
Burger King did it with the Whopper Experiment, where it triggered Google Home to tell users in detail what a Whopper contains. Cochlear created a short film with audiologists where the outcome depended on how good your hearing is. Gatorade made a running figure out of liquid, using a rain rig made from data and motion capture.
But as a fan of the cliché ‘great power brings great responsibility’, I feel that brands that leverage technology not to just push the cultural envelope, but to do good with it need to be encouraged and celebrated. And much to my delight, every year, we are seeing more brands come up with novel solutions to help humankind in different ways. At the Cannes Lions this year, two particularly memorable ones stood out for me.
The first one is Huawei’s Story Sign app that uses AI and AR to create a simple solution for a widespread problem.
In a race to be the best and most powerful smartphone, manufacturers cram their phones with a lot of technology — most of which we don’t have much use for. With Story Sign, Huawei put the powerful AI/AR capabilities of its phones to heartwarming use.
The insight was that reading is a skill that is not easy to grasp for a kid. Learning to read involves associating the sound of the word to the text and so on. But imagine the challenges a kid who cannot hear will face when he or she is trying to learn reading. Because when you can’t hear what the word sounds like, how will you interpret it in your head?
Huawei solved that problem by creating an app that translates the text of a story book into sign language through an animated character.
What I love about this campaign is how Huawei picked up such an overlooked but widespread problem, and solved it using AI/AR — complicated technologies baked into a set-up so simple and intuitive, even the hearing impaired can use it. But here’s the cherry on the top: while Story Sign is a Huawei product and works best on their phones, it is not locked to it so all Android folks can use it.
The other campaign is from the brand that was recently in the news for its clever Pee ad and is currently in the news for its heartwarming ThisAbles.
Nearly all of Ikea’s work generates more buzz than a swarm of angry bees, but with this campaign, it has made a real move into trying to make this world a better place.
ThisAbles literally makes the world more disabled-friendly through 13 furniture add-ons that anyone can download and get 3D-printed at a local place. When attached to existing Ikea furniture, these add-ons make it easier to grab, hold and open. There’s a friendly zipper, easy handle, a curtain gripper and more.
The best thing about ThisAbles is not just how Ikea has made the files free and accessible from anywhere in the world, but the fact that it has given 3D printing — a technology that has existed for years — a powerful, new purpose.
Seeing brands using tech to help the disabled, fight racism, protect the environment and more, you realise that you don’t have to be a doctor or working in an NGO to make the world a better place.
The author is chief creative technologist, Dentsu Webchutney.