AI Delivered Content vs AI Delivering Content

I recently attended a prominent learning conference and was intrigued by a booth exhibiting an “artificial intelligence” (AI) powered solution for rapid content creation. Learning how the latest technology is being applied in L&D is a top topic for me and my curiosity was certainly peaked. The company’s unique selling proposition was leveraging its cloud-based AI platform to create and deliver learning content in record-breaking time. I was quite interested in hearing more as the vendor demonstrated their solution. The process was very straightforward:

  1. Upload an existing slide deck.
  2. Upload a text-based script.
  3. Select and place a life-like, photographic character model from the library.
  4. Select a few options for publishing, and…

…voila, you can review the final eLearning, created in record time. The course was converted to a video-based format, comprised of the slides, and an AI-generated presenter complete with AI-generated lip-synch for the AI-generated voice-over. It certainly seemed like a recipe for cost-cutting speed, high volume production, and a marvel of technological innovation.

While this sounds like a content development dream, there was something missing. With all that technology employed, why was I not able to relate to the content?

While the models were images of real human beings; the presentation was incredibly unnerving and devoid of life. The computer-generated avatar had no facial expression, no vocal inflection, no movement (other than the lip-synch), and zero emotive expression or connection to the content. The delivery was disconnected, robotic, and sterile.

“Danger, Will Robinson!” If this is the future of learning, we are in trouble.

An Unwelcomed Trip to the Uncanny Valley

Roboticist Masahiro Mori’s 1970 article introduces the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis which describes the relationship between the human-like appearance of a robotic object (avatar or animated character), and the emotional response it evokes. Humanoid robots that are highly realistic but ‘not quite human’ evoke a sense of unease or even revulsion.

The conference demo experience may be an extreme example of well-intended technology, applied in the wrong manner, leading to inverse results. In this case, the goal of leveraging technology to rapidly create learning content (saving money and time) outweighed the learner’s need and affected the impact of the learning content itself.

My experience with the AI-generated character delivering content was less than inviting and engaging. I found myself focused on the life-like, but lifeless avatar so much that I wasn’t even listening to the message being presented. I was distracted by the sense of uneasiness I felt being in the presence of something so humanlike, but truly lacked humanity – a trip to the Uncanny Valley.

AI Delivered Content Is Not the Same as AI Delivering Learning Content

Let me be very clear, in my experience, the AI was delivering the content to learners. Unfortunately, the technology solution became a distraction to the learner. In this case, AI delivering content was not the most effective solution. But that’s not to say that there is not a place for this kind of technology.

If the challenge were only time and money, this solution seems like a reasonable option. However, all learning is human, and we should focus on the performance and behavioral outcomes of the learning experience. This is where AI-delivered content should shine.

By leveraging the power of AI to actively evaluate a learner’s path, performance, and tendencies, AI can help make recommendations and adjustments to their learning journey to enhance and accelerate their development.

Whether or not we are able to deliver on this promise of dynamically personalized learning plans is within the realm of current technology, I can’t say for sure. But we need to think about the learner’s experience first, and then align the best and most effective media and methodologies to deliver a great and engaging learning experience.

Takeaways for Incorporating Technology into Training

When evaluating new technology and the power it can provide, be careful not to fall into the ‘new shiny object’ trap. Make sure to focus on the purpose first. Ask yourself, “What are we trying to solve for?” “Does the technology address these needs?” Then select the right technology to complement and enhance your learning program goals. Here are some takeaways to keep in mind as we move into the future with each passing day:

  • Leverage technology to align with the needs of both your learners and business.
  • Use technology that empowers learning programs to be more relatable, relevant, and realistic for learners.
  • When embracing cutting-edge technology be willing to accept the potential for unintended consequences.

At Bluewater Interactive, we know it’s not enough to just make learning content readily available and easy to complete. When collaborating with our Custom Content Services clients, we strive to ensure that learners’ buy-in to the content is always a consideration. We want learners that embrace the ‘why’ behind the learning and training, so that transformation in performance is achieved in the most efficient and effective manner.

To learn more or to get help with your content needs check out our Custom Content Services.