I work at ValueFirst Digital Media Private Ltd. I am a Product Marketer in the Surbo Team. Surbo is Chatbot Generator Platform owned by Value First. ...

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I work at ValueFirst Digital Media Private Ltd. I am a Product Marketer in the Surbo Team. Surbo is Chatbot Generator Platform owned by Value First.

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Artificial Intelligence Changes the Wine World

By satyamkapoor |Email | Jan 30, 2018 | 13056 Views

That experience of test-driving a Tesla via a computer screen is coming to the wine world. In fact, it is already in play on a number of winery sites where visitors can take in 360-views of vineyards and look at great winery photography with superimposed data or graphics.

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) - and its siblings, augmented and virtual reality - is rapidly expanding and changing how consumers perceive and purchase many products, including wine, according to Phil Van Allen, a professor of graduate media design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He gave a seminar at the 2018 Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium (DTCWS), held just outside of San Francisco this month.

He opened his presentation by sharing his belief that an avalanche of new technology is about to unfold on the wine business, whether executives are ready to address and work with it productively or not. Its scope is also going to be way beyond that of the simple response format of an Alexa or Siri he said, referring to Amazon and iPhone's respective virtual assistants.

The skinny on the future

Some of this technology is already broadly in use by many sectors of the wine business, said Van Allen. These include sensors to monitor water levels and pesticide use which can represent significant savings for wineries. Ch√?¬Ęteau La Coste in Southern France is also using the same drone technology that race cars use to preview a ride to provide online visitors with 360 degree views of its vineyards on its website.

The next step in gathering and using this data is going to be that of analyzing its immediate and long-term value effectively, said Van Allen. This may be the most important business hurdle for wine producers. He joked that while executives in the wine world are well known for their data gathering, they don't have a stellar reputation for doing their due diligence in terms of adequately analyzing it. So hopefully well-engineered AI technology may help winery executives to complete both steps - of compiling and evaluating - their newfound data.

He added that AI technology should not be seen as a one-dimensional servant and data-provider but an interactive collaborator that can take on various tasks with success. Van Allen also shared that while current limited, Siri-like versions of AI have long been viewed as "slightly dumb but opinionated", this outlook is likely to change as the technology evolves. In addition winery executives would benefit by using multiple sources of AI, according to Van Allen, to track different points of view and perspectives on what constitutes effective - and sales-focused - communication from wineries.

By 2022, fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology will be fully implemented, he noted. This will enable autonomous cars to function all over the world in a move which is going to affect the wine business in multiple ways. It will not only transform the way tourists see wineries, but are also likely to revolutionize the way wine is delivered and the way wine country tourism destinations are chosen and visited by tourists.

These same cars may also be able to regale visitors, via a pop-up screen, with the history of the winery before they arrive. Once they are in the vineyards that same screen may show what types of varietals are planted row by row to their left and right, allowing guests to do tailored, virtually self-guided tours at a much lower cost to the winery.

The same technology would also be able to recommend the best restaurants in Sonoma or Chinon for dinner that night and could suggest a local wine bar that carries the same Cabernet that they sampled at the winery. The same technology may also be able to presume guests, after a wine-laden night, will want to postpone car pickup until 11:30 on a Saturday morning and let them know that their case of Pinot was delivered by an autonomous car at the hotel by broadcasting a pop-up screen on the wall of their hotel room when they arrive back from dinner.

Facial recognition, which is already in use on some computers and smart phones, will play an ever greater part in the new sales technology for wineries. So at wineries or retailers, potential customers would be able to order online without having to login or enter credit card information. Potential buyers will also be able to talk to AI bots - those sales queries that pop up on computer screens - both by voice and through the written word - once they are online at a retailer or winery's site.

Wine magazines and research sources may also benefit from AI. As we speak Wine-Searcher's website is piloting Casey, an AI-engineered chatbot that strives to make wine purchase suggestions. Casey starts with a question as to whether the user is looking for a wine to go with food or just for easy drinking, helping less-knowledgeable drinkers to engage and start a conversation.

The use of data-programmed, in-tasting room, AI-enabled goggles - think about those Apple glasses - would allow wine tasting room hosts to instantly recognize club members, pull up their favorite wines and see at what point they are in the tasting flights. They could also let managers know if VIP visitors hadn't touched their glasses in 10 minutes and who hasn't yet been served.

Potential negatives and the future

While this new technology is slated to solve a lot of problems, when used well, it is likely to create some as well. While self-driving cars should eliminate issues with drinking and driving and limited winery parking, they may generate others that weren't anticipated. Van Allen said that since these cars are programmed to be cautious "Humans may learn to game them by walking in front of them and making traffic worse," he notes. So they could be potentially continually stopping and cause greater traffic delays.

Beyond the potential of greater traffic jams, much of the current AI-generated data and algorithms that are currently in use are less than accurate, according to Van Allen. As an example, he noted that many wine club algorithms say that they need only a handful of ratings to make good recommendations to consumers about what they might like to drink, however they are often not able to provide the crucial reason why they recommend these wines to certain buyers. The AI field, he notes, is sadly lagging behind in what he calls "Explainable AI." It is an area of research that the US government has been heavily investing in.

There is also the risk of virtual reality potentially fostering a lack of real human communication in wineries and other wine sales settings, from tasting rooms to retail sales floors. Human interaction, and warmth, is particularly important in a business that has long based its history and relevance on families, agricultural conditions and regional traditions. 
Allen cautioned that "your business is going to change because of these technologies whether you jump in [and utilize them] or not." He recommended that all parties in the wine business keep an eye on new AI developments so they can make use of them to continue focus on developing their brands and the history around them, anticipate potential problems and better understand consumer needs.

Source: WineSearcher