Technology
AI – friend or foe?

How should the attractions industry take advantage of AI? What ethical issues are there? What are the issues with copyright? Crafted CEO Ian Miller answers our questions


While artificial intelligence (AI) has huge potential for the visitor attractions industry, it’s early days, and most of us are still getting our heads around the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Following his recent talk on AI at the Visitor Attractions Conference (VAC) in London, we sat down with Ian Miller, CEO of digital marketing agency Crafted, to get answers to some of our questions. Crafted works to discover new trends within the attractions sector, with clients including the Natural History Museum, English National Ballet and the British Museum.

What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence, AI, in its simplest form is a simulation of humans’ abilities and intelligence performed by a machine. However, it’s not one singular thing. You can’t just say ‘I’ll use a computer for that.’ AI is a huge toolbox and the number of applications for AI is increasing at an astonishing rate.

We’re currently in the phase of Artificial Narrow Intelligence, where a computer learns how to master a certain task (eg beating a human at chess, chat support or filtering spam email), but not doing multiple things at the same time. The broad uses of AI today are as a text interface (ChatGPT), conversational tool (Alexa), as a way of creating visual images (Lensa/Midjourney), generating ideas and automating repetitive tasks.

How can the attractions industry get the most out of AI?
This question will no doubt be on the minds of many people working in this space. AI is already being used by museums and attractions in a number of ways, and has huge potential to increase audience engagement and visitor numbers. It can be used to generate, extract, classify and summarise the large amounts of data that attractions have to work with.

Data generated from the way customers interact with attractions (eg peak hours for visiting, how people move through an attraction and heat maps showing the length of time spent at each exhibit or room) can be used to improve the user experience. This data can help refine ‘plan your visit’ itineraries published on official websites or apps, for example, and crowd management strategies.

People will hopefully always be better curators than machines – but that’s not to say that AI can’t make the visitor experience more personalised or memorable. Exhibit descriptions and interpretation could be tailored to an individual’s age, language or interests, translating information and creating child-friendly explanations on the spot as visitors move through an attraction.

What are the ethical issues and challenges of using AI?
This is an area that can often be overlooked when thinking of AI. What we would say to attractions is to use AI for tasks, but not to hand over all responsibility to it. Organisations need to be aware of data security and what they are giving away to machines.

There will always be an inherent bias in the results produced by AI, because it has been trained on a certain data set with human bias fed into it. It’s also important to note that not all AI uses live data, so be aware of the accuracy. The text an AI outputs currently lacks the human element that a living, breathing writer or curator would be able to produce from the same information, even though AI may be able to ape a certain tone of voice or style prompt.

And what about data set usage and copyright issues?
Content created by AI is not owned by anyone, even if it is based on copyrighted data (such as images).

Copyright law is gradually coming to terms with AI, and we would expect to see changes, but it remains something of a grey area. Recently, there has been a rise in people using AI to replicate real brands and characters. With IP licensing being such an integral commercial element in the attractions industry, this is where I’d exercise caution with the use of AI.

How is AI likely to evolve over the coming years?
The pace of development in AI is startling, and at the moment it seems like everything is everywhere all at once. The difference AI will make to our daily lives is likely to be on a flatter curve. Bill Gates said that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10”, and I would expect to see something similar with AI.

It’s important to remember that AI will be built into everything. Microsoft recently launched Copilot, their own AI tool, and has since embedded the product in its Office 365 packages. ChatGPT-like conversational searches will transform the search landscape when they go live globally on Google.

So, is AI a friend or foe?
That really depends on the expectations you set for it. As a data wrangling, task automation, idea generation tool, AI is definitely a positive development for visitor attractions. Its power can be harnessed to improve business performance and meet customer expectations about choice, interactivity and personalisation.

But AI is not perfect. Use it to focus on the needs of customers, and keep your people’s creativity at the centre of everything you do.

Photo courtesy of Crafted

"AI has huge potential to increase audience engagement and visitor numbers" – Ian Miller, CEO of Crafted

AI can be used to improve the visitor experience and drive attendance Credit: Shutterstock/BearFotos
The Hague’s Mauritshuis has faced criticism for showing an AI generated image inspired by Vermeer Credit: Atosan/shutterstock
 


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Attractions Management
2024 issue 1

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Leisure Management - AI – friend or foe?

Technology

AI – friend or foe?


How should the attractions industry take advantage of AI? What ethical issues are there? What are the issues with copyright? Crafted CEO Ian Miller answers our questions

AI-powered technologies are already changing the attractions industry jamesteohart/shutterstock
AI can be used to improve the visitor experience and drive attendance Shutterstock/BearFotos
The Hague’s Mauritshuis has faced criticism for showing an AI generated image inspired by Vermeer Atosan/shutterstock

While artificial intelligence (AI) has huge potential for the visitor attractions industry, it’s early days, and most of us are still getting our heads around the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Following his recent talk on AI at the Visitor Attractions Conference (VAC) in London, we sat down with Ian Miller, CEO of digital marketing agency Crafted, to get answers to some of our questions. Crafted works to discover new trends within the attractions sector, with clients including the Natural History Museum, English National Ballet and the British Museum.

What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence, AI, in its simplest form is a simulation of humans’ abilities and intelligence performed by a machine. However, it’s not one singular thing. You can’t just say ‘I’ll use a computer for that.’ AI is a huge toolbox and the number of applications for AI is increasing at an astonishing rate.

We’re currently in the phase of Artificial Narrow Intelligence, where a computer learns how to master a certain task (eg beating a human at chess, chat support or filtering spam email), but not doing multiple things at the same time. The broad uses of AI today are as a text interface (ChatGPT), conversational tool (Alexa), as a way of creating visual images (Lensa/Midjourney), generating ideas and automating repetitive tasks.

How can the attractions industry get the most out of AI?
This question will no doubt be on the minds of many people working in this space. AI is already being used by museums and attractions in a number of ways, and has huge potential to increase audience engagement and visitor numbers. It can be used to generate, extract, classify and summarise the large amounts of data that attractions have to work with.

Data generated from the way customers interact with attractions (eg peak hours for visiting, how people move through an attraction and heat maps showing the length of time spent at each exhibit or room) can be used to improve the user experience. This data can help refine ‘plan your visit’ itineraries published on official websites or apps, for example, and crowd management strategies.

People will hopefully always be better curators than machines – but that’s not to say that AI can’t make the visitor experience more personalised or memorable. Exhibit descriptions and interpretation could be tailored to an individual’s age, language or interests, translating information and creating child-friendly explanations on the spot as visitors move through an attraction.

What are the ethical issues and challenges of using AI?
This is an area that can often be overlooked when thinking of AI. What we would say to attractions is to use AI for tasks, but not to hand over all responsibility to it. Organisations need to be aware of data security and what they are giving away to machines.

There will always be an inherent bias in the results produced by AI, because it has been trained on a certain data set with human bias fed into it. It’s also important to note that not all AI uses live data, so be aware of the accuracy. The text an AI outputs currently lacks the human element that a living, breathing writer or curator would be able to produce from the same information, even though AI may be able to ape a certain tone of voice or style prompt.

And what about data set usage and copyright issues?
Content created by AI is not owned by anyone, even if it is based on copyrighted data (such as images).

Copyright law is gradually coming to terms with AI, and we would expect to see changes, but it remains something of a grey area. Recently, there has been a rise in people using AI to replicate real brands and characters. With IP licensing being such an integral commercial element in the attractions industry, this is where I’d exercise caution with the use of AI.

How is AI likely to evolve over the coming years?
The pace of development in AI is startling, and at the moment it seems like everything is everywhere all at once. The difference AI will make to our daily lives is likely to be on a flatter curve. Bill Gates said that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10”, and I would expect to see something similar with AI.

It’s important to remember that AI will be built into everything. Microsoft recently launched Copilot, their own AI tool, and has since embedded the product in its Office 365 packages. ChatGPT-like conversational searches will transform the search landscape when they go live globally on Google.

So, is AI a friend or foe?
That really depends on the expectations you set for it. As a data wrangling, task automation, idea generation tool, AI is definitely a positive development for visitor attractions. Its power can be harnessed to improve business performance and meet customer expectations about choice, interactivity and personalisation.

But AI is not perfect. Use it to focus on the needs of customers, and keep your people’s creativity at the centre of everything you do.

Photo courtesy of Crafted

"AI has huge potential to increase audience engagement and visitor numbers" – Ian Miller, CEO of Crafted


Originally published in Attractions Management 2024 issue 1

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