The advertising world loves big, shiny, techy things. Agency and client ears perk right up when they hear about virtual reality kiosks, gadget-filled activations and holograms of dead rock stars. But then there are the tech innovations that sound a bit, or a lot, less sexy. Things like deep learning.
Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that essentially teaches computers to find patterns in sounds, images and other data. And while that may not seem like much fun to your average social marketer or copywriter, the tech giantsthe Facebooks, Apples, Googles, Netflixes, Microsofts and Baidus of the worldare investing massive sums of money in it. For instance, Google reportedly spent more than $500 million to acquire deep learning firm DeepMind in 2014. Baidu, the Chinese smartphone giant, runs deep learning and artificial intelligence-centric R&D centers in Silicon Valley and Beijing. Apple hires deep learning experts at fever pitch.
Why the frenzy? Deep learning technology lets you unlock your phone with your thumbprint. It enables Facebook and government agencies to identify your face in pictures. And it helps Siri and Alexa understand just what the hell you’re saying. Advertisers are experimenting with using deep learning to count how many passersby stare at billboards. The self-driving cars that we’re told are just around the corner rely on deep learning to avoid hitting other cars. Or people.