Digamma.ai AI Q&A Series: Jackie Snow, MIT Tech Review
1. We are in the very early stages of AI in history. Style is still so complex and there is this sense that AI is trending towards an intelligent assistant that will help us look like we shop at Saks Fifth Avenue regularly and yet do it under budget. In what areas do you believe AI will help consumers and what areas of the style and retail experience do you believe humans still need to do themselves?
I would agree that style is still too complex for AI to get a grip on. So, there’s a long way to go before AI is putting together an outfit for me. Right now, with everything that we’re seeing in the fashion world, I think it’s really geared towards predicting what sort of items a consumer might like to buy. That doesn’t really have anything to do with style. In the meantime, I do think we’re going to have AI that can help surface a lot of different items that we may not necessarily be exposed to through the online shopping environments that are available to us right now.
2. You speak about generative adversarial networks (GANs) in several of your recent articles on AI and style. Do you believe this particular segment of AI research has the capacity to one day replace a stylist or even a fashion influencer?
So, researchers from University of California San Diego and Adobe came together and used a system called GANs that stand for Generative Adversarial Networks that feed these neural networks a lot of different kinds of information. In turn, the neural nets are able to come up with something that is similar to what it was trained on but a little different. So, I think this is the first example of a project by some really big researchers that show AI can be used in a more creative way and come up with things that aren’t completely human derived. We’re just having an update that is more or less all human-created but this is a start, I think, of AI becoming a little bit of a stylist.
There’s a trend in current perspectives on AI that it may be a massive job killer but, from my perspective, I think AI will also power tools in the toolkit for many different types of workers. In this vein, I think GANs have the potential to be something that can really help empower different fashion jobs. It’s definitely not going to completely replace them. In particular, these systems still need a lot of data and there is some synthetic data that can be created by AI that is then fed to other AI systems to create new items. But we still need human trends and human designers creating clothes for the AI to see and understand trends, and maybe even predict new ones. But AI is not going to do it without a lot of human data points for a very long time.
But regardless, I think to make things happen for consumers, we’re going to need a lot of other technologies to sprout up at the same time. For example, these GANS aren’t creating sewing patterns. We don’t have a system in place to create one-off items. So, we’re going to have to see a lot more ingenuity in spaces other than AI to come about. In short: leave the research labs and enter our closets!
3. What areas of the fashion creation and consumption process do you believe are underdeveloped or underrated and yet could have very tangible benefits for either the consumer or the fashion creator?
I would say probably all of the processes are underdeveloped. If you look at the companies that are out there and the people that are working in AI, it’s a lot of white guys in Silicon Valley. So, they are responsible for coming up with the majority of ideas that are useful for people who care about fashion. I think if we had more guys in hoodies in Silicon Valley who cared more about fashion, what we could accomplish there could be really revolutionary. Everything from creating ecologically sustainable fast fashion fixes to improving shopping experiences to even changing how we get dressed in the morning.
So, we need to expand the people who are creating the AI. We’re definitely starting to see some women and other groups that are perhaps a little less represented in Silicon Valley come up with these ideas. And they’re making a killing. But, they’re just starting. Overall, I think we just need to empower more fashionistas to work with AI and build really cool tools.
4. What role do you believe Amazon will have on impacting the fashion landscape for both fashion industry players and consumers?
Right now, data is the oil. The more data you have, the better off you are. AI systems are almost always improved by entering more data into it. So, Amazon has a lot of data. I just recently read about the GANs that came out of Amazon where they were using the system to come up with infinite ideas of what future orders could look like. The purpose of this was to plan and strategize their warehouses, ordering, and buying patterns in a way that is not even in the space of the millions of orders they get right now but in the billions of potential orders.
But Amazon is in pretty early on fashion. People are trying to figure out which brands in Amazon are made by Amazon, and what have you. But I would not sleep on Amazon. Even if they’re a little bit early on fashion, or they’re just starting off in fashion, they have enough data to really change how the entire shopping industry works.
Think about it like this: sometimes a consumer just needs a new pair of sweatpants or some more socks. If Amazon is able to eat up all those easy, less stylish pieces of clothing, that’s going to cut into retailers’ bottom lines pretty quickly. With their amount of data, as much as I do think humans always have the upper hand on being stylish and recognizing trends, AI will be able to do it well enough for a lot of people based on the type of data Amazon already has. So, even if it’s not going to necessarily dress people for the Grammys, it could dress people going into their office job Monday through Friday.
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