As someone who has spent the last two decades writing about — and working with — real estate technology firms, I find myself frequently attempting to simplify the complex. My efforts haven’t always been successful. I know that when a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) cringes at one of my attempts.
Reporters who cover real estate face the same challenge. They must write for their “average” reader. In the real estate industry, we know from extensive research that the average real estate professional is not very tech-savvy.
And there’s the conundrum. Writers and reporters must write and serve two masters: accuracy and clarity. With emerging technology, the challenge to balance these is often daunting, and success is uneven.
One recent example is Artificial Intelligence. Because AI is a hot topic universally, it is handled like stone soup: everything is thrown in the same pot.
What is called AI today often is a misnomer. Most reporters who cover real estate technology are not AI experts, nor should they be. But in attempts to simplify a story for a broad audience, clarity is the casualty. Everything that hints at being AI is given the same label.
A specific example is with a firm WAV Group works with, OJO Labs. OJO Labs has assembled a world-class team of technology leaders and data scientists to become real estate’s artificial intelligence leader. Their AI product called “OJO” is the real deal, using artificial intelligence to power its service.
The characterization of OJO being the real deal is according to folks that know a lot more about AI than I do. Experts from companies like Google, who have canvassed the real estate tech landscape, will tell you many firms claim their product is AI-based. But what many firms are doing falls short of what is considered real AI work.
OJO Labs is a clear exception as a bona fide AI firm.
But even OJO is sometimes seriously mislabeled a “Chatbot.” Calling OJO a Chatbot is like calling a flip phone a smartphone because they both can send a text. The bar to be called a “Chatbot” is very low. Chatbots can be nothing more than fancy autoresponders, missing the mark in their responses more than they succeed – by a colossal margin of error.
The problem is we equate Chatbots with our own failed experiences, again lumping everything together in the same pot.
That’s why it pains people who work in AI to see a label used so loosely. OJO Labs, for example, in its live partnership with Realogy, is using machine learning and tens of thousands of conversations with home buyers and sellers to get smarter and smarter. Leveraging machine learning and tapping into massive data sources, OJO Labs is pioneering work in real estate AI that has applications for many other industries. A Chatbot? Hardly.
Real estate reporters covering technology are not alone in mislabeling technology. Even technology reporters, in their quest to simplify, have misnamed OJO a Chatbot.
This will pass, I believe, for two reasons. One, reporters in real estate and technology are getting smarter about emerging tech innovations. And emerging technology will be improving in ways so that it will become highly apparent what is and what is not a Chatbot; what is or is not AI.
Until then, all writers and reporters will continue the struggle to serve two masters: accuracy and clarity.
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What a Catch-22 we have. Unfortunately readers regardless of professional want to connect concepts that are unfamiliar with other concepts they believe they understand. Whether it be tossing all AI and smart-but-not-AI tech in the same bucket or calling all end-to-software a CRM, we’ve got a long way to go.