by Giles Fitzgerald, insight editor, Frukt

There is a simple, yet fundamental, paradox at work at the heart of the convergence of humans and AI. As we strive to make artificial intelligence seem ever more human, we are, often imperceptibly, becoming increasingly autonomous ourselves.

Our rising digital dependency and our increasingly insular lifestyles run counter to some of our most basic needs as human beings. We have an innate desire for person-to-person connection, one that transcends the 2D boundaries of our tightly held smartphone. The argument here is that life lived through a plethora of screens has driven all our experiences to happen ‘over there’, in some undefinable binary, displacing us from ‘the moment’ as much as it pertains to bring us into closer proximity to each other.

In an always-on world dominated by technology, live experiences have now become a highly sought after commodity. We actively crave experiences that make us feel ‘alive’ (tangibly in the moment), ‘connected’ (in physical proximity with like-minded others) and ‘noticed’ (that provide social bragging rights). So how do brands and marketers effectively bridge the experience gap between our digital and physical lives? The answer lies in understanding where humanity and technology intersect.

For some, the rising reliance on the now ubiquitous smartphone in our hand suggests it may just as well be grafted into our skin. However, if it were, would that in some way make us less human? Is molecular proximity really the boundary line that separates human from machine?

The convergence of humans and technology is by no means a new thing. The simple technological leap of eyeglasses, kick-started back in the 12th century, is a prime example of a human being augmented by tech that goes unnoticed today. The humble, yet life critical, pacemaker — a cyborg styled implant that predates our growing obsession with transdermal cybernetics and body modification by some 60 years — also garners little attention. Why? Because they have become absorbed, seamless, a part of our evolutionary process that no longer requires foreboding or critique.

The point here is that tech works best when it is integrated harmoniously into the everyday, when it adds an enhancement to our perception and experience, and this bears out for brands when it comes to crafting effective experiential marketing. It’s this ‘seamless integration’ that ultimately holds the key to the future of truly augmented live experiences.

As the lines between our digital and analogue lives continue to blur, technology has a huge role to play in evolving the way we experience a live event, pre, during and post; from simple ease of access benefits, to enhanced social sharing, heightened levels of personalisation, right through to digital mementos of the event itself. Ultimately, however, technology must help facilitate, not supplant, the essential human essence of a live, in the moment, experience.

Nascent technologies –whether it be VR, AR or AI — are by their very nature intriguing, piquing our natural curiosity, but they can’t stand alone from the human experience. As we strive ever forward with artificial intelligence, brands need to be mindful not to create ‘artificial experiences’ in the rush to innovate or embrace tech for tech’s sake.

There is something fundamentally human about the rawness, the reality and the ritual of being present in a shared, elated moment with others. In truth, the clue is in the name. ‘Live Experiences’ are meant to make us feel just that; alive. For brands, technology that augments that feeling of connection, of something tangible, sensory and fuelled by passion — without us being acutely aware of its presence — is where the future lies.

The key today is not to separate man (human) and machine (technology) but to ultimately create a more symbiotic, more naturally assimilated, role for digital in the field of experiential marketing. One where the impact of technology is ‘felt’, as opposed to just seen.