Allo: The rise of social adjacent intelligence

This new form of AI won't be a substitute for our own brain power, but rather a form of social adjacent intelligence to help us respond and post faster, funnier, smarter, more relevant, pithier, and more effectively.

Google's Allo. (Screenshot from Google's "Say hello to #GoogleAllo video on YouTube).
Google's Allo. (Screenshot from Google's "Say hello to #GoogleAllo video on YouTube).

Google debuted its smart messaging app Allo last week, resulting in the usual rush of online reviews, denunciations, and proclamations. But whether you think this particular app is successful or not, one thing is clear: this next generation of smart communication apps will change our industry in a big way.

The notion of a social feed is only a decade old, but combined with basic messaging apps (text, iMessage, Whatsapp), the modern member of society has a near constant stream of data to manage. The marriage of artificial intelligence to these platforms promises to deliver us a new paradigm of communicating with the world around us.

This new form of AI won’t be a substitute for our own brain power, but rather a form of social adjacent intelligence to help us respond and post faster, funnier, smarter, more relevant, pithier, and more effectively. In essence, to live a better digital life.

Imagine a world where automated and smart help apps respond to our constant stream of messaging and posts. If we could augment the right bits of our daily communications, we can use this technology to help us constantly create our most engaging posts and effective responses. The ones that rapidly galvanize our friends around our social and political causes. The ones that make people LOL and ROTFL. If we could ensure the most timely responses to our colleagues, and parents, that would be one less thing to manage in our busy lives.

These new smart comms apps will read between the lines of our conversations to add real value. Lurking in the code, waiting to suggest a place to eat or automatically put something in our calendar that was just committed to via text. Talking to a friend about meeting at the movies? Your smart app already ordered an Uber for you and bought the tickets via Fandango. It also checked your activity tracker for the day – you cleared 10,000 steps! – and gives you a thumbs up to supersize your popcorn.

If you have used Allo or similar AI chatbots, it’s easy to understand the detractors: Yes, the technology doesn’t quite work yet. Yes, Microsoft made a racist Twitter bot by mistake. But, just like the early days of social networks and most initial tech releases – these things get better with every iteration released.

PR agencies can play a major role in how these new smart communication apps are used. Our clients will need guidance on how best to integrate their messages and narratives into this world and more importantly know how to harness this potential new cultural trend. With a legacy of storytelling and facilitating conversations for our clients, the PR and communications industry should celebrate this new technology and be a major part of leading the way.

Scott Schneider is chief digital officer at Ruder Finn.

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