The vision thing
Back in March Salesforce introduced its Einstein Vision capability, an idea with a lot of promise but not a great deal of precedent—who had applications that could see and how would this be used? For decades we’ve been content with scanning documents and analyzing them with optical character recognition (OCR) tools, or we’ve used bar codes and QR codes but it all came down to recognizing simple symbols.
Suddenly there was something much closer to human reading that needed explaining. The March announcement introduced Visual Search, which gives customers the ability to photograph things and use them in searches for products and services or used by vendors it can be used to identify things in processes that didn’t have analogs before.
For instance, with Einstein Vision marketers can quickly analyze photos for presence of brand images and understand how brands are perceived and used. With a picture you don’t have to rely on your gut or your experience, however faulty that might be.
Vision services can also be used in product identification to give service reps a way to evaluate possible service issues before dispatch so that the right resources can be sent.
All of this leverages existing customer technologies, mostly in handheld devices. This is important because it reduces the time it takes to diffuse the solution throughout the marketplace. If, for instance, these vision solutions required special cameras or a wired connection it would take far longer to diffuse the solution through a customer base. Or maybe the solution, however useful it is, might never make it to market.
The March announcement whetted appetites with its ability to recognize photos and logos and the company anticipated it would be able to provide applications to support visual search, brand detection and product ID in short order which it did last month for its Social Studio.
Recognizing that social has itself become a visually oriented medium, it was logical for Salesforce to add vision recognition to the mix and that’s what it delivered by adding Einstein Vision to Social Studio.
So what does this buy you? Well in marketing and service it can mean a lot. Right now the solution is just available for Twitter but with it marketers and service people can search their streams for images that tell them something about their brand, products, or customers’ experiences.
For instance, finding your brand or logo in a stream might give you reason to try to understand the context. What do the words that go with the pictures say? The sentiment (which could also be analyzed by Salesforce) might convey happiness or the opposite in each case prompting different actions from a vendor.
Seeing a brand or product with a negative sentiment might kick off a service outreach. At the same time, unambiguous displays of logos or branding, say at an event, can tell a vendor how well sponsorship ads are performing. Other insights are possible too for instance sorting through a social stream can provide basic research into potential trends. If a noticeable percentage of your customers can be seen doing, eating, or having something, it might indicate the early stages of a trend. Of course, none of this raw data is enough to make investments in but it serves as level one research that you can test. This beats relying on your gut or thinking you know the customer. Everybody knows the customer but well enough to make an investment?
So the first version of AI powered vision recognition from Salesforce is out there and I expect it will be one of the many new ideas that get coverage at Dreamforce and I wouldn’t put it past Salesforce to announce more uses for it or at least for them to announce a roadmap.
A few years ago, two MIT professors named McAfee and Brynjolfsson alerted us to the reality that the tech revolution was about to go into overdrive. The reason is simple, we build on top of prior successes and at this point there’s a lot to build on. These professors also said that because of this organic growth we can’t really forecast the uses and applications of these developments but we know uses can and will be invented. To simplify with a concrete example, there were no computer programmers until there were computers. That makes sense to us today but if you lived in the late 1940s those words might have looked like modern English but they would have made no sense.
We’re at it again disruption is all around us but history teaches us that we shouldn’t fear the future because organic growth has a way of working itself out.