ObENs cofounder Adam Zheng and his avatar. Photo courtesy: ObENs
This is going to be the year Artificial Intelligence (AI) shines, according to the top voices in tech, and it spells big opportunities for the luxury industry.
While Silicon Valley is driving much of the industry’s momentum, China is taking major steps to catch up, promising to make AI a $150 billion industry by 2030. Underlining this, a recent white paper released by a Chinese internet recruitment platform found that the demand for AI doubled last year and salaries for the field have grown significantly. In December, Google announced it was opening an AI research lab in Beijing.
Given the hype around AI, it should hardly come as a surprise that Adrian Cheng, founder of K11 Art Mall, has invested US$10 million in an AI start-up from California called ObEN. ObEN uses AI technology to create 3D “intelligent avatars” that are copycats of real people, designed to look, sound, and behave like the user. K11’s founder sees the potential these avatars could have for retailers seeking to create more immersive and tangible customer service experiences powered by machine learning.
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Last summer, ObEN announced a collaboration with Tencent, raising $5 million in funding to create AI avatars—or Personal AIs (PAIs)—for celebrities, meaning that once the technology is market ready, celebrities could effectively communicate with their fans without being physically present. For Cheng, though, ObEN technology could mean Chinese shoppers may see real-looking bots interacting with them at K11 malls in the not-so-distant future.
“ObEN’s Personal Artificial Intelligence (PAI) platform simplifies the implementation of artificial intelligence technologies for real life applications,” Cheng said in a statement. “K11 is committed to localizing the PAI platform and bringing an immersive AI experience for visitors at all K11 projects.”
AI implementation could breathe new life into what it means to go to a brick and mortar shopping mall in China, just as it is changing online shopping. While many companies are still working out how to best utilize the technology, the past year has seen several milestones in AI with major implications for luxury brands. These are the top six.
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