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"Innovation without creating value is only a fad," Q&A with Prof. Alain Goudey

Speaker, professor and entrepreneur Alain Goudey talks about humanoid robots, sonic branding, innovating and value in technology etc.
BY Anandamayee Singh |   17-05-2019

BrainGain Magazine

Alain Goudey is a 21st century jack of all trades, relentlessly evolving to keep pace with the exponential technological growth of this era. His two main areas of interest are music and technology, and he has researched cutting edge fields like sonic branding and AI. As Chief Digital Officer and Associate Professor of NEOMA Business School, Goudey has played a large part in introducing virtual reality in classrooms, to better explore customer service in supermarkets and stores. He has also worked on the autonomous, programmable humanoid Nao Robot, and founded two companies called AtooMediaand Mediavea. AtooMedia is a sonic branding agency, and Mediavea is a retail media expert which equips 16000 stores. BrainGain Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Alain Goudey about what it means to be an innovator and educator today.

Below are edited excerpts:.

In a talk you gave at NEOMA in 2017, you said that the education system is outdated, as it relies too much on information and not enough on experiential learning. How are you addressing that when you design courses at NEOMA?

I always have in mind the quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. The vision we have for experiential education at NEOMA Business School is to dramatically increase the commitment of our students by bringing experts with very concrete experience into class to share their expertise, as well as by encouraging our students to complete traditional internships and participate in activities within student associations.

Most significantly, we have been using virtual reality in class since 2016. This technology gives us the opportunity to teach marketing or supply chain management in a very different way through the VR based case studies we have developed. We can push our students into virtual situations to make them experience necessary skills and then come back to class to receive feedback and learn theories. This quick transition between context and theory allows for very short learning cycles. Students can explore the biggest drive-in store in France and think of the processes used there, or improve the store through discussions with peers and applying concepts taught by the Professor. Of course, VR is not available for every discipline, but we can use serious games, escape games or action learning techniques to make the experience more concrete and transferable.

Can you speak a little bit about your interest and investment in sonic branding? What attracted you to this field, and why do you think this is an area worth exploring for others? What do you envision as the future of sonic branding?

Among others, I have these two passions; technology and music. I’m lucky enough to live the first one at NEOMA Business School as Chief Digital Officer and the second one with AtooMedia. I have co-founded AtooMedia a sonic branding agency in 2001 with the vision that brands can be taught to use voices, music and sounds as effectively as the movie industry does. I completed my PhD in marketing on the impact of music on consumers and I founded the agency so that I can address this issue for companies both scientifically and practically.

Sounds are impactful and as brands are communicating more and more thanks to digital content, it’s important for brands to be professional and to carefully choose every sonic signal addressed to consumers. Sonic branding is destined for a bright future for this reason, but also because of the development of virtual agents, robots, and the rising importance of the user/customer experience globally!

Please tell us about Nao, the robot? How did the idea come about? Do you think now that it’s in its sixth version, it is beginning to move away from the liminal space of fiction and reality that a robot with a humanoid appearance usually occupies? What do you want for Nao in the future?

At first, the robot Nao existed as a research topic for my colleague Gaël Bonnin and I under the Smart Products and Consumption Research Institute we co-founded in 2013. Our aim was to understand if and how people (and more specifically elderly people) could benefit from robot technology. Our work has since been published and communicated in conferences and the answer is not as clear as was expected by roboticists.

In line with our vision of experiential education at NEOMA, it was natural to use Nao in class to explain the technology but also to illustrate how people are reacting to the technology. This was a really good way to begin the class on the adoption of innovation thanks to students’ own reactions towards the robot!

Concerning the evolution of Nao, it still has a long path to cover before leaving the liminal space between fiction and reality. Of course, the technology is here and Nao can already accomplish a vast amount of tasks (in a friendly environment). However, it is still far from what has been imagined by science-fiction! For now, in France, people are only willing to interact with robots for less than one minute on average due to the weaknesses of the technology! To make these companion robots a reality, the roboticists must improve autonomy, voice recognition, visual recognition, context understanding, emotional reactions, etc. which can all be achieved with the progress of artificial intelligence.

Given that technology influences almost every aspect of human life, do you think it is important for technology to interface with other disciplines? If yes, in what ways can we start to institutionalize this approach in education?

My belief is that technology is spreading everywhere! Every country in the world is affected, but so is every business area, every organization, every function within those organizations. It is vital to ensure people have a strong technological background whatever their jobs may be. In France, technology has been separated from other disciplines for decades, but we need to develop engineering schools that include management skills as well as business schools that propose high-level technological skills. From this perspective, we are developing research centers, programs and seminars on big data, artificial intelligence, crypto-currencies, etc.

More globally it will be a good point for kids to be engaged in technological understanding as soon as possible with the experience of coding or creating basic robots. It is a fun, useful, and efficient way of understanding the world today!

As an expert in your field, why do you think NEOMA is an exciting place to study?

NEOMA Business School is ranked among the TOP 10 of French Business Schools and we offer highly valuable programs in luxury, marketing and finance.

Vitally though, we are leading our own digital transformation with the ambition to challenge the higher education sector. For us, virtual reality has been a first step into the digital world, but we also plan to transform our campuses, classrooms, learning methods and organization thanks to the power of digital. We have created an EdTech start-up Accelerator and a Learning Lab which work together to think and create the future of business schools. So, if you expect to both acquire strong knowledge for business and experiment with the possibilities of today’s world, NEOMA is a great place to come.

Any words of advice for the early adopters and the laggards?

Excellent question! To the early adopters: I ask them to slow down a bit in order to feel the real meaning of the innovation. Innovation without creating value is only a fad! As an early adopter I’m always wondering if each new technology is really meaningful or not! 

Concerning the laggards, I have advice, not just for them, but for all of society. The digital world creates misunderstandings, anxieties, and fears when it should be positive and inclusive. We have to allow everyone to be able to follow the technological curve and to be educated on this digital world! As a Professor, I’m particularly sensitive to this need, and I plan to be as active as possible on the topic.

Related stories:
“We are certain jobs will be different in five years’ time.” - Dr. Dave Perry
What it takes to study Nanotechnology- Q&A with Prof. Ted Sargent
‘The most limiting education lies within the walls of a classroom.’



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