Bah, Humbug? How AI Is Helping Save the Holidays

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With a global pandemic ongoing and many communities around the world considering locking down to various degrees, this holiday season probably isn’t going to be quite what many of us had hoped. We may not be able to attend the kind of holiday get-togethers that we normally do, and other traditions—like family trips and volunteering to give back to our communities—might also go by the wayside.

But that doesn’t mean you have to completely cancel all the holidays! AI tools are being rolled out across different industries to help make the holidays merry and bright even if things are a bit different this year. Here’s a review of some of the most impactful and unique ways that AI is bringing some cheer to the holidays.

Shopping

Shopping for gifts for your loved ones is one of the defining traditions of the holiday season. You might not be able to go to the malls and stores to do all of your shopping this year, but if you do, you can expect your shopping experience to be influenced by AI.

AI models are being used to optimize check-out lanes for safety and even the layout of aisles and items in stores to help promote socially distanced shopping, even during the rush of the holidays. And if you’re shopping online, retailers are using complex algorithms for their search results to better understand what it is you’re looking for.

Retailers are also using AI to optimize supply lines, fulfillments, and deliveries to help make sure that everyone gets their gifts on time, even with more people shopping online than normal. After the fragility of current models was revealed at the beginning of the pandemic, many enterprises are shift to more resilient models that aren’t as heavily impacted by changes in human behavior to ensure things run smoothly.

In addition to AI tools to help you find gifts and get them into your hands so you can wrap them in time, you might also find products that were themselves made by AIs. For example, this Playform Art Shop is featuring works by artists who use artificial intelligence to make their works, which is a fantastic example of AI and humans working together on creative projects.

Sharing the Cheer

Community service and giving back are highlights of the holiday seasons for many families. But this year, it might be more difficult to find opportunities to volunteer and contribute, despite the clear need in our communities.

If you’d like to find a new charity to contribute to that’s a good fit for you personally, you can use a tool called Good Cheer. It uses an AI to analyze the content of your recent tweets, determines your Myers-Briggs personality type, and then uses that to match you with charities you might like. (@RapidMiner is a “Strategic (INTJ)” if you’re curious.) This is a great way to find new causes worth supporting this season.

Travel

If you do decide to travel this holiday season, you’re likely to run into additional examples of how AI is helping customers navigate the changed world. Airlines have been using AI for years to manage simple customer queries, ensure safety, and optimize maintenance, and you can expect those trends to ramp up during the holiday travel season.

Hotels, too, are using AI tools to help them get more done with less. Chatbots have become especially popular for answering basic customer questions about COVID-19 regulations and safety policies. And guests are using them even after they check in for things like ordering room service. It’s likely these changes will likely stay even beyond the current pandemic, freeing customer service agents to deal with come complex issues instead of fielding the same basic inquiries over and over again.

Santa

No holiday would be complete without a visit to Santa at the local mall—but those are off the table for this year. So, what are the alternatives?

For one, you can set up virtual chats with an AI Santa for your kids to unload their lists and make them feel connected to the holiday. The Santa Video Call and Tracker app uses AI-assisted video to let your kids have a chat with Santa that’s safe and socially distanced. You can load in some of your kids’ favorite things and the app will create a customized call with the big guy.

When Christmas Eve rolls around, you can follow Santa’s journey around the world via Google’s tracker. The dashboard uses a unique combination of AI tools to smooth out the noise from Santa’s whirlwind tour of the globe and give you an estimate for where he actually is on his annual journey.

And remember to tell your kids that they don’t have to worry about catching COVID-19 from Santa’s visit. According to Dr. Fauci, Santa has “innate immunity” to the virus.

After the holidays

When the holiday season is finally over, you might find yourself needing some emotional support. In a normal year, it might be stress from holiday travel and spending time with your extended family that’s got you down. But this year, you’re more like to feel isolated and alone after a less-than-busy holiday season. AI tools like Woebot combine a strong background in psychology with artificial intelligence tools to help you understand and address your feelings so that this unique holiday season doesn’t need to get you down.

Wrapping it all up

So, there you have it—although the holidays this year might not be everything you’d hoped for, with some AI tools and human creativity, they might not be so bad after all.

If you’d like to explore some of the other ways that AI is making the world a better place, check out Doing Good with Machine Learning and AI.

Additional Reading

Chris Doty

Chris Doty

Chris Doty is RapidMiner's Content Marketing Manager and has worked on projects for companies like Google, NatGeo TV, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Virgin Pulse. In a past life he was an academic, and has a PhD in linguistics.