Insights & Inspiration About the World We Live In. That’s Ampersand Thinking

In a world where change is the new normal, it’s more important than ever to get a better understanding of the forces shaping our culture, businesses and lives.

Last week, Neonormal welcomed back Simon Kemp from Contagious Insider to Ampersand, our quarterly series of talks designed to provide insights and inspiration about the world we live in.

Exploring one of the most far-reaching and dynamic of those themes, Machine Learning & Humanised Computing, Simon outlined the impact of new technology, its power and potential, and most importantly, how we can use it to make us more human. Thanks to all who joined us on the night – you certainly kept Simon on his toes with your insights and questions. We hope you enjoyed it and we’re looking forward to continuing the interesting conversations that were started.

We covered a lot of content, but for those who couldn’t make it (or who forgot to bring a notebook), here are six things we learned:

Are humans needed?

With software writing software, we have algorithms operating at a speed and complexity that are simply impossible for humans to do. Take a look at Otto and the Budweiser Truck – the world’s first commercial delivery by a self-driving vehicle that did a 120-mile journey and could save ABInBev millions of dollars a year.

A shift from me to we

Virtual Reality can be quite isolating. Individuals with goggles and headphones, disconnected from others even as they explore a new world. But the true power of an experience is in the sharing, not just the seeing. That’s exactly what Lockheed Martin did with Field Trip to Mars, the world’s first group VR experience and an extraordinary way to influence a child’s interest in science as a career choice.

Virtual riches are real

What is still seen by many as simply entertainment can have a massive impact on a company’s fortunes. In the week after Pokémon Go launched, Nintendo’s share price doubled and added more than $20 billion to the company’s value (though it tanked afterwards when they revealed they just licensed the game). However, in Japan, McDonald’s saw a 27% boost in sales from outlets that became Pokémon gyms.

Electronic emotions

What does it means when technology doesn’t just learn what we want, but how we feel? Meet Connie, a robot concierge prototype from Hilton and IBM that uses cognitive computing technology to give guests the information they need and recognise the mood they’re in.

You’re the voice, try and understand it

With a nod to the indefatigable legend that is John Farnham, the future of computing is becoming increasingly voice powered. Voice recognition is 3x faster than typing and tech giants like Amazon, Google and Baidu are competing to deliver voice recognition and virtual assistants in the home. Looking for the perfect bedtime book? Check out The Snow Fox, a children’s book that comes to life as the child reads.

Do you want to play a game?

Computers beating humans at a board game is old news. But last year, in a major breakthrough for artificial intelligence, AlphaGo, a computing system developed by Google, beat a master of GO, the ancient game that has more possible moves than there are atoms in the universe. The only way it could do that is by intuition – and that changes everything.


Our lives have always been entwined with technologies that move us forward. Technologies that open up new worlds, new possibilities, new connections, and at times, new concerns.

Yet it is the newest chapter that is the most exciting.

The extraordinary power of Machine Learning now available at 0.05c an hour. The blending of what is real with what is not. The balancing of what is remarkable with what is relevant. Our voice as the only thing we need to guide us through the world we have created.

As a brand experience agency, we’re always looking to better understand what’s taking place around us and apply these learnings to create experiences that are more powerful, memorable and effective than ever. We may be entering a time of extraordinary change but one thing is certain – tomorrow is already being written and it’s a cracking read!

To find out more about Ampersand, the other stuff we learnt and how it could all add an extra dimension to your marketing mix, get in touch.

Paul Edwards
Creative Director