Cannes 2018: Alexa, can you change the world?

Quiver’s Graham Budd reports from a hackathon that showed how creatively doing good can pay off with voice assistants.

By Graham Budd

Forty-eight hours. Seven teams. One Amazon Echo.

This was the challenge presented to the seven agencies that participated in the first “Change for Good” hackathon at this year’s Cannes Lions; use the Amazon Alexa platform to come up with an idea that helps advocacy group Global Citizen affect real and meaningful change. Teams had to ideate, create a working demo and pitch to a star-studded panel of judges (such as Gary Vaynerchuk, self proclaimed as “bullish on voice”) under high stakes: Global Citizen would work with the winning team and leveraging the winning concept.

The standout pitch and hackathon winner was Dentsu’s “Walk with Me,” which uses Alexa as an “AI bodyguard.” Always listening from a user’s phone when engaged, it can help suggest safer routes home based on data of all users, call authorities and turn on both of the phone’s cameras at the first signs of trouble. Of all the approaches, “Walk with Me” exemplified using the strengths of voice technology in a way that could immediately and tangibly benefit individuals – particularly their safety, a contrast to many of the other approaches with arguably less direct benefits. Further, the scalability and application to many other cities and markets across the globe was self-evident – it had true application throughout the cities of the world for anyone walking alone, making it stand-out in its potential for greatest global impact.

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© 2019 Dentsu Jayme Syfu.