We are pleased to introduce Anton Spitkovsky, a researcher in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) in today's feature. Anton embodies the fusion of academic rigour and practical imaginative thinking as a PhD candidate at RWTH Aachen University's TIME Research Area, Chair of Marketing, and visiting scholar at Maastricht University's Marketing & Supply Chain Management Department.
His career path has taken him from an IT Digital Innovation Consulting role at Toyota to consulting for a variety of startups and multinational corporations, putting him at the forefront of marketing technological innovation. Anton's enthusiasm for emerging technologies, as well as his dedication to developing valuable insights and practical applications in these fields, distinguish him as a unique voice in today's tech-driven world.
Can you tell us about your education and work experience, especially with emerging technologies? What motivated you to start your PhD in that field?
My academic journey in the exciting fields of AI and AR started with a Pre-Master at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics. In the bachelor course Services Marketing, led by Dr. Tim Hilken, I discovered my passion for holograms and Augmented Reality in 2020 when we created a holographic solution for Vodafone Ziggo. And what a coincidence! That event changed my perspective about new emerging technologies. A lot of coursework followed, not only in my Strategic Marketing Track, where I created a new creative and interactive hologram for BMW under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dominik Mahr, but also in the Strategy and Innovation track. There, I delved deep into the realms of AI in the fashion industry and led a facilitation about the general implications of AI and its impact on human society in the year 2021. What a great story that I could finally continue working on a thesis combining my passion for immersive technologies under the supervision of Dr. Tim Hilken and Dr. Jermain Kaminski. I rounded up my adventure at Nova School of Business and Economics (Lisbon, Portugal), where I learned how to launch a new idea from start to finish. I also delved into core strategy courses, which amplified my interest in applying my passion for technology and business in a real-life setting. Voilà! I got the opportunity as an intern in the Digital Projects & Innovation department at Toyota Deutschland GmbH. One of my accomplishments was delivering AI business presentations to top management, where I was able to educate about AI technology, its trends, insights, the theory behind it, and automotive application cases to an audience of more than 100 people.
What are you working on right now that involves AI and immersive technologies (like AR or VR)? Can you tell us a bit about these projects?
So, one of the projects I am working on right now is the rebirth of my Master's Thesis, which analyzes customer decision-making with Augmented Reality. Here, our goal is to make a unique contribution to the research field by establishing a completely new technological setup. Stay tuned!
Another project I am currently analyzing delves deeper into AI. We witness how technologies like OpenAI change our day-to-day interactions. And I am curious to understand how consumers adopt and value these technologies. Sometimes, you know, I think back and am amazed at what great opportunities we have for research nowadays.
What kinds of business problems are you looking at that involve both AI and immersive technologies? Is there anything really cool or exciting in this area you're exploring? Do you have first results already that you can share?
I am very proud of my recent accomplishment at RWTH, where I co-developed a project module titled: “Consumer Research: Consumer-Oriented Innovations in the Automotive Industry with Toyota Deutschland,” focusing on AI in customer experience. The first topic addresses Electronic-Care with Chatbots, while the second topic explores artificial intelligence in car sales. Two teams handle these topics, and it's particularly amazing to witness the students' work as their mentor and advisor.
Given the rapid integration of AI and immersive technologies in businesses, what ethical or business risk considerations arise in your research, and how do you suggest they be managed?
I mean, you always have a risk when you do not know the underlying structure of the AI model behind the consumer-centric solution you are using. So, as researchers, we need to check whether it is allowed in a European app store. Further, we need to follow the GDPR guidelines and ensure anonymous data allocation. Another context is company projects like the one with Toyota. When you think about new emerging technologies here, we cannot risk that a model starts hallucinating during a life-important event, like in a car accident. Additionally, the risk is high to dilute your brand image if technology is not trained appropriately according to Toyota standards during day-to-day customer interactions. I would say it is a highly iterative process of experimenting, testing, and deploying in the company context, while at university we often focus on experimenting and testing new stuff in a research logic. But that is why such cooperation with big companies is so essential. It can be a win-win situation for both the company and the university.
Where do you project the trajectory of AI and immersive technologies in the business landscape over the next 5-10 years? Are there any particular innovations you're eagerly anticipating?
I love this question; it takes me back to my Marketing Strategy and Innovation course with Dominik Mahr, or to my time at Nova. I think we will see incredible new opportunities, platforms, and apps arising in the next two years. I believe technology will become more interconnected, for example, fusing AI and AR until 2030. This will enable new customer experiences like never before.
What advice do you have for business leaders or people starting companies who want to use AI and immersive technologies? What should they keep in mind?
Try to evaluate your status quo. What are current projects and what problems do they solve? Now imagine you have new technologies like AR and Generative AI as additional layers to your equation.
Try to reevaluate your status quo. What current and new problems can we solve with these new technologies? Try to apply a futuristic yet hands-on approach and brainstorm about concrete business use cases in the present.
Experimentation is key. Classical mindsets will need to adopt dynamic and fail-plus-learn strategies. A more agile approach is needed to activate your use cases in your daily project management work.
Be aware of the societal and consumer impacts the technology can have on your customers. Iterate your technology until you are satisfied that it meets your brand requirements.
Market Research to reassure those consumers are satisfied.