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Technology adoption: the European way
The race to create and develop ‘next-generation’ technologies, like artificial intelligence, 5G or quantum computing, seems to be a single combat between the United States and China. However, Europe can become a global player in the adoption and implementation of these technologies. Recently, French President Macron said in an interview with Wired that “Europe is a place where we are able to assert collective preferences and articulate them with universal values”. This view contrasts with the market-led model, where companies are focusing on their private interests (shareholder value) – which is dominant in the U.S. – and with the Chinese state-led model, where the state is directly involved in developing new technologies to strengthen its power and authority. The European consensus-based model maintains the middle between these, and focuses on public consensus by involving all stakeholders and aligning social and moral values with private interests. By playing on its own strengths and traditions, and boosted by France’s initiative, Europe can fill in the gap of properly adopting and implementing these exponential and disruptive technologies in modern societies.
Something that started out as a simple app can tap new value sources by applying advanced technologies in innovative ways. For instance, chatbots enabled by AI turned Chinese messaging app WeChat into a platform that lets consumers order taxis, make payments and even access health care services. Its most recent collaboration with U.K.-based startup Babylon enables users to message medical symptoms and receive healthcare advice in return. Pinterest is another example: computer vision technology enabled this photo sharing service to open up new opportunities in visual search. Its camera search tool Lens lets users point their camera at items to access additional information. People use Lens to find inspiration on home decorations, food preparations, or vacations. Moreover, Pinterest has turned itself into a commerce platform by enabling users to shop directly from a pin. These two examples show the reasoning behind tech companies’ investments in AI and related technologies, including voice, chatbots and image search. With the right application, they can enable and tap into future consumer practices: helping us find, buy or access anything we might need.
Influencer marketing using social media stars is maturing with brands ramping up their budgets. Still, influencers and brands often fail to disclose the commercial nature of their content, potentially causing a negative backlash. In addition, several social media influencers have faced negative publicity, such as PewDiePie for making anti-Semitic jokes. Virtual influencers might not face these issues. Although not a completely new phenomenon – virtual celebrities such as Japanese singer Hatsune Miku have been around for years – a new generation of virtual influencers is stepping out of their niche. A remarkable example is the 20-year old fashionista and computer-generated Lil Miquela (more than 800,000 followers on Instagram) or black supermodel Shudu. Virtual celebrities are also signing up brands: Coca-cola for instance, has a virtual sponsorship deal with FIFA 18’s virtual footballer Alex Hunter. The unexpected success and acceptance of virtual influencers indicates real commercial potential for brands. Virtual influencers not only diminish the risk of scandals or controversy, advertisers could even create an ideal representation of their brand with whom their audience can identify better.