Santa's little tech helper: the future of festive technology | Alexiei Dingli

Is it better to rely on a computer to pick out a gift, or to put thought and effort into choosing something that will be meaningful to the person you're giving it to?

Christmas is a time for celebration, reflection, and spending time with loved ones. It's a holiday embraced by people worldwide, and it's a time of reflection when many of us ponder on the things that truly matter in life.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend towards incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the Christmas experience. The holiday season is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, from intelligent holiday decorations to AI-powered gift suggestions.

But what does this trend mean for the future of Christmas? Is AI going to make the holiday season better or worse? Let's take a closer look at the role of AI in Christmas and what it might mean for the future of the holiday.

One of the most common ways people utilise AI in the Christmas experience is by using smart home devices. These devices, such as intelligent lights, smart thermostats and many others, can be controlled using voice commands, an app on your smartphone or directly by an AI. It essentially means that anyone can turn on the lights, set the temperature, and play holiday music, all with simple commands. The AI can also add intelligent routines, like switching on the lights as soon as the sun sets or switching them off when everyone goes to bed, thus helping households save electricity.

Some people love the convenience of controlling their holiday decorations using AI, but others worry that it takes away from the season's magic. After all, there's something special about manually stringing up the lights and setting up the decorations rather than just saying a few words to a computer.

Another way that AI is being used during the holiday season is to help with gift-giving. Many retailers now offer AI-powered gift suggestions, using algorithms to analyse your shopping history and the preferences of the person you're buying for. This can be a great way to come up with unique gift ideas, especially in a period where most people already own quite a lot of things. However, it also raises concerns about the role of technology in our personal relationships.

Is it better to rely on a computer to pick out a gift, or to put thought and effort into choosing something that will be meaningful to the person you're giving it to? And if we start relying on AI to help us with our gift-giving, what does that say about the state of our relationships? Although sometimes it can be tough to identify the right gift for a person, the effort one goes through is part of the experience. Sneakily trying to figure out what the other person needs or wants is part of the fun too! Furthermore, let's not forget that Christmas is not just about presents. In most cases, spending quality time with our loved ones can trump any other gift idea that an AI might suggest (and it will probably be much cheaper too).

Another possible issue with using AI during the holiday season is the potential for job loss. As more and more tasks are automated, some jobs traditionally associated with the holiday season could become redundant. Retailers have been cautioning us for years that they're feeling a massive shift in consumer behaviour from brick & mortar stores to online shops.

This shift is only natural, considering mobile commerce has experienced enormous growth in recent years. Physical stores can no longer compete on the product level only because online stores offer a much broader and more diverse selection. Furthermore, AI-powered systems have made online retail more appealing and greatly improved the entire process. Thus, shops need to compete on the real shopping experience, transmitting the Christmas spirit through decorations, music, smells, and their staff's warmth, something online retail cannot achieve.

This shift in consumer patterns could harm the economy, and it could also mean that some people lose the opportunity to earn extra money during the holiday season. It's essential to consider the potential downsides of incorporating AI into the holiday experience. Unfortunately, this trend towards automation is only increasing, but it also provides us with new opportunities to stop doing things the way they were before and create new innovative ways of getting people together. Ironically, in our massively connected world where everyone is a click of a button away, the biggest problem afflicting us is loneliness!

Despite these potential drawbacks, the ultimate decision to incorporate AI into your holiday experience is up to you. While there are potential drawbacks, there's also the potential for AI to make the holiday season more convenient and enjoyable. It's essential to weigh the pros and cons and decide what suits you and your family.