AI Now Eyeing Presentation. Be Afraid!

It seems as though everyone I meet at the moment is talking about the new wave of AI which is coming our way. From content creators to software developers, artists to lawyers, the prospect of being replaced by a bot has injected some ‘heightened interest’.

Just two months ago, I was giving much time to composing my thoughts (ie procrastinating) before committing to the keyboard and producing an article. This month I can just throw a couple of pointers into ChatGPT, tell it which style I would like to write in, press return and sit back. Within 3 sips of my coffee, a flawless article will come back.

Well that was the plan, but such is the popularity of ChatGPT at the moment, that I was it was ‘at capacity’ when I tried to log on. So I fished around for a free alternative and typed in my instructions: Write about the benefits and issues of using AI in the field of presentation, referencing the work of de Burgh. I deliberately dropped my first name.

The chatbot went to work and sure enough, before I’d even had a chance to make a second coffee the results were in!

I eagerly began to read: As technology advances and continues to develop, so does the use of AI in all aspects of our lives. And one of the most popular applications of AI is in the field of presentation. So far, so good! This was going to be a doddle!

It was in paragraph 3 however, that the realisation dawned that perhaps it wasn’t all going to be plain sailing. I was surprised to learn that; One of the most important figures in the field of AI and presentations is de Burgh. de Burgh is a professor at the University of Technology in Sydney and is an expert in the field of AI and presentations.

Great! except that de Burgh is not me. Aha! Squeal the Botophiles, you said you didn’t specify which de Burgh in your criteria so what do you expect! Of course I did not (on purpose), but it does raise questions about the integrity of a machine which has no idea about the facts it’s spouting and no voice at the back of its head whispering ‘you’d better check those facts’.

It was shortly after that I received news that AI was marching into my own area of expertise (first it came for the copywriters and I did not speak out because I was not a copywriter etc!). A new feature on broadcast software from Nvidia allows “content creators seeking to record themselves while reading their notes or a script”. Hailed as a tool for use in public performance, the Eye Contact feature replaces your own eyes for a pair of simulated eyes that align to your computer’s camera.

The use of Deep Fake to make people say things they haven’t said – such as Barack Obama – was dramatically revealed four years ago as the stuff of James Bond movies. Now it’s in your home office! Early testing has thrown up some flaws with Eye Contact – as tech magazine, The Verge notes, it is “an effect that worked really well when we tested it ourselves, except for all the times it didn’t”. Cue the kind of embarrassing scenarios that I will probably be citing in future articles about the dos and don’ts of using AI in your presentations…

Once upon a time, in the mid 1980s, we were served a vision of the future in the form of an AI presenter called Max Headroom (which was actually portrayed by an actor as reliable AI only existed in movies… like 1984’s Terminator). Oh, how we marvelled at the possibilities and smiled at the strange quirks of this ‘machine’ attempting to emulate a TV presenter. Oh, how naive we were to assume there may be quirks!

While it may well be the future, the question of authenticity will weigh heavy in the debate about using such technology for engaging with an audience. It starts with a shifty pair of AI eyes to replace your own wandering optics, but where does it stop as flawless becomes the new norm. If AI continues to run on its current trajectory, will we reach the point where human presenters are a minority? Will they be a quirky throwback to an era in history where people presented and to general amusement made all sorts of mistakes, while striving to be better presenters?

Or will those simple human skills we take for granted; audience empathy, reading a room, reacting to something else going on in that room, fact checking and even those quirks which make individual speakers stand out ensuring the survival of the human touch? I certainly hope so…