There is so much hype around AI it almost seems that everyone around us has turned into an AI-expert. However, even the true experts are calling AI the next electricity, so let’s clarify what AI is, why it matters, and how it can benefit you.
Technically speaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advanced statistics and applied mathematics. When we talk about AI we usually talk about machine learning and, to be more precise, a specific type of machine learning called “supervised learning”.
Supervised learning can find the relation between input and output data. In a way, the process is similar to a finding a function or formula, such as finding the function of a line when only two coordinates are given. When you find the function you can tell where the other coordinates on the line are.

If we have two coordinates we can find the relation between those coordinates. AI works the same, there only are a lot more coordinates.

With supervised learning finding a formula (or an algorithm) is a little bit more difficult, because the relationship between the “coordinates” is more complex. Imagine we would ask you to write a formula define whether there is a cat in a picture or not. The technique to solve this formula is called “artificial neural networking” (inspired by how our brain works). The Neural Network finds the probable relationship between the input data (the picture) and the output data (cat / no cat).

An Artificial Neural Network looks for the 'function' that defines whether there is a cat in the picture or not

Some translation examples that supervised learning is able to do:
- A picture of someone ➡️ Hey that’s you
- Handwritten text ➡️ Typed text
- Picture of a body scan ➡️ Cancer cell found

The success of companies like Google and Alibaba is very much because of AI: They are good at predicting whether someone will click on a specific result based on existing data. What follows is that, when more people click, more data is collected and these predictions become increasingly accurate in the long run. That is also why it is so hard to build a replacement of Google. You can never get as much data as they have, making it nearly impossible to compete. Hence why Google, Facebook and Alibaba are often compared to the oil companies of the beginning of last century.
Why this matters
The ability to predict has an insane impact on our economy and the way we work. Just imagine an online magazine being able to run a story through an algorithm that can already tell whether it is going to be shared more than average or not, a compliance department that can predict whether employees will understand new policies or not, shops that predict increased foot traffic based on shopping assistants, etc. So even though everyone is upset about Facebook and the EU is ramping up their data protection rules, the golden age of data and AI is just getting started.
What we’re doing about it
As a design studio we feel that the combination of data science and design is a match made in heaven. Data scientists can make the prediction and designers can then make sure the prediction is presented in a way that the user reads only the data that is important.
So our design team is starting to actively take courses in data science. This way we can proactively think with clients on what is possible. At the same time we see that the majority of our clients are not yet familiar with the new technology and the implications it brings, so we are investing more time in developing our own tools to help show them what is possible.

Part of that investment is also our close partnership with Harwood Levitt. In this partnership the boutique communication and strategy firm is able to serve their clients better by making their data work for them. Exciting things ahead!

Links to check out
- How Accenture is saving time on project management using AI
- What AI is doing in the security world
- To understand Machine Learning better, read this piece to get started
- What happens when data scientists and designers work together...
- Understand what neural networking is
- Great (super long!) article on how Google started using AI in translations
- How non-tech companies are using AI
- O’Reilly made a free copy available of their book on Machine Learning for Designers
- You might want to check our tweets for more articles we love