An example of how to create AI value
How can AI create real business value? This article gives a real example of how AI can reconfigure how a business could be run. To set the scene for how you can create value with AI, we start with models. But this time it is not AI models. It is real models, photographers, and a photoshoot. You are about to learn how all of them will soon be seeing fierce competition from AI because AI can create exponential growth. If you think it seems weird, then I can fully understand you. It is two very different worlds: Photos, photographers, models, and AI. What´s the link?
Exponential productivity improvements
However, I predict that a large portion of the world’s 20,000 professional photo models soon will have to look for another job, because how they create value is an obstacle for the realization of exponential productivity improvements. Here is why. The requirement for an excellent photo model is obvious. Being photogenic is a part of the job. However, being photogenic alone does not make a great model. He or she must also be creative so that they can sell the products they market in the best way. They must be able to “work the camera”. The models must also be flexible; they must be willing to travel a lot, to work for many days, and have long working days. So it is a line of work that requires a high degree of both social and cognitive skills, and thus something most people think is very far from what AI can do for us.
Why AI can replace human models
So why would a skilled and professional photo model be made redundant by AI? The reason is economics, time, and technology. But most of all, because of exponential growth options. Anyone who has experienced a photoshoot knows that it is expensive. Even the simplest studio recordings require a relatively large apparatus to get the images you need. But this is, in fact, the least problem for the models, photographers, and the owners of a photo studio. The big problem for all of them is that they are a bottleneck. You use the photos they create to sell products or to brand a business. But, it takes time and planning to work with a photoshoot.
How to sell a red dress
Let’s say that you create women’s fashion and you have created a new red dress. To sell it, you need photos. So a photoshoot has to be planned. It requires you to book a model that matches the expression of your marketing concept. Also, a studio or a location and a photographer must be booked. This whole process is a bottleneck to your marketing efforts. You cannot make sales material, post on social media, and create online articles or print a catalog before the pictures are ready. In other words, there is a significant limitation in the period from when the clothing concept is ready to when the promotion can start. And the photoshoot is a critical component of this limitation. This can be illustrated as a process flow diagram with three coherent streams: Marketing, production, and the photos, which are shown in this picture.
A photoshoot flow
The photoshoot is the business problem
So there is a great business interest in not making photoshoots if you can avoid it in any way. Because if you can avoid it, then you can market the products earlier. Maybe you can test what works on customers before production starts. And you can release new collections on an ongoing basis without relying on a planned photoshoot. All of these elements are components that will make you achieve exponential efficiency. All those elements support the idea of achieving exponential growth. Our business will have better options if we can design it in a way where we don’t have any dependencies on having to take actual pictures in a studio. If we could achieve this, then it could mean that we could create more collections, that we fast verify if they match our customer needs, and have more efficient production management.
Computer Generated Images
Here is where AI comes into play. To be more specific, a branch of AI that provides the opportunity to work with artificial photo creations. It is called CGI (Computer Generated Images). As an example of the technology, you can watch this YouTube video. The clip contains images of artificially created people. None of them exists in real life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSLJriaOumA#action=share
This technology is about to become available on a mass scale. When this happens, it will mean that you can make all the photos you need with virtual models.
The IKEA catalog
As early as 2014, 75% of the IKEA catalog was made from computer-generated images 27 . So, it is not science fiction. It is a technology that follows the normal tech adaption patterns. It starts at the giants such as IKEA and then becomes more accessible to a broader line of business. The cost of the technology will be so low that very few companies will ever be able to justify using models for their product images. The use of CGI does not mean that the modelling industry is becoming extinct. But it will clearly mean that the number of global photo models is not 20,000 as it might be today. There will always be supermodels in the world, but the majority of the models are at a high risk of losing their jobs. And the point is that the Knowledge Systems do not do the jobs of the models and the photographers better than they do. It all depends on your perspective. If you look at the output as a product, then a photo will always be better if it is made in a studio by a photographer. But if you are looking at the output as a process, then the winner changes. A CGI photo will always win over a studio photo because it has no dependencies to the product creation process.
The new production flow is shown
Using Computer Generated Images means that we win calendar time, you get agility in the way you can act in business. The new production flow is shown in this illustration. The companies that use CGI will get the pictures right away and do not have to depend on photoshoot bookings and production plans. If they need a new product photo, then they can have it 2 hours later. Not two weeks later, when the right model, photographer, and studio are available. And in the end, it will be such matters that determine evolution.
The new AI production flow
The economy will win
The economic factors and the new level of production flexibility will win over the photoshoots. Despite its apparent defects, CGI will be the preferred solution for many companies. As you can see, this goes beyond jobs and AI. It has to do with the core of how you run your business. So, what you have just been introduced to, how AI can influence jobs and processes is the core part of the value creation process.
The goal is to create value
The goal is not to use AI to replace a job, process, or IT system. The goal is to use AI to create a different kind of value. A value that is better than the one you can create with your current set up of jobs, in your processes, and with your IT systems. So, there is a better way to create a new kind of value. This case represents one of the core elements of working with AI. For now, it is just a single case.