INTERVIEW: Digital avatars and AI to mediate 85% of consumer brand engagements by 2028 – Mastercard VP

Ashraf Amin , Monday 21 Aug 2023

During his visit to Egypt, Keith Jordan, vice president of innovation for Mastercard Ventures, tackled the impact of disruptive technologies on the market and the expected merging of the online and offline worlds.

Keith Jordan


In an interview with Ahram Online, Keith emphasized the significance of directing investments toward the digital economy in developing countries.

He also highlighted the crucial role that policymakers and regulatory compliance play in cultivating an ecosystem that fosters and markets innovation. This effort is necessary to create an inviting environment for technological advancement and economic growth.

Ahram Online: Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Keith Jordan: I am Keith Jordan, a global innovation leader working with my teams to bring groundbreaking technology to the marketplace. We collaborate with banks, merchants, retailers, and governments, leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, conversational AI, augmented reality, and virtual reality. We develop these programmes and deploy them at scale for our clientele.

This trip marks my inaugural visit to Cairo, and I am delighted to have had the chance to engage with bankers, policymakers, and entrepreneurs about the impending shift in the computing landscape. As we are all aware, technology is now propelling us from a world where our attention is buried in screens and devices, to a world where augmentation through headsets is the next major shift in computing.

Research suggests that by 2030, augmented reality smart glasses will be adopted at double the rate we saw with mobile phones. At this point, our online activities in these digital universes will concurrently occur in the physical world. Imagine this: a few years down the line, I could walk into a car showroom wearing my smart glasses and summon my bank avatar to stand beside me and negotiate the best deal.

Leveraging proximity location awareness and facial recognition, the avatar and virtual machine would be aware of my location and actions. This will enable companies to utilize intelligent systems and analyze my data to provide me with the most suitable offers. We are set to witness a smooth transition from isolated transactions to immersive experiences and seamless commerce across various businesses.

AO: Do you think we can reach that development in seven years?

KJ: The transformation and revolution in digital experiences are already underway. Consider the realm of online video games, where over a hundred million gamers are actively engaging in these gamified worlds.

Amid the pandemic, Roblox generated a staggering $250 million from selling virtual face masks alone. As social networking evolves, individuals will create diverse avatars suited for various platforms. For instance, one might have a professional avatar and a separate, more relaxed avatar for social gatherings.

The concept of time and location will become more flexible. With smart glasses, it is possible to virtually include others in real-time experiences, such as a visit to the pyramids. One could even leave their avatar to simultaneously converse with peers in another location. We are on the verge of a new era where individuals will seamlessly transition between the digital and physical realms.

AO: How far will this blending between the physical and digital world change the economy?

KJ: Research suggests that by 2030 the metaverse economy is projected to be worth an astounding $13 trillion”. Integral elements such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and emotional activation will begin to coalesce through machine vision, setting the stage for a new era. By 2028, a mere 15 percent of consumer engagements with brands and services will involve human interaction, with a staggering 85 percent of interactions being managed by digital avatars and AI. In this imminent future, brands and services will take on a new vitality. It will be customer-centric, with the customer's time dictating the brand and service engagement, not the other way around.

AO: How far does the decline in cryptocurrency affect the metaverse economy?

KJ: It is important to distinguish between the metaverse and cryptocurrency, as their interdependence is not crucial. The metaverse economy holds numerous prospects beyond crypto, such as intelligent utilities. A renowned automobile manufacturer, for instance, is transitioning all their vehicles onto the blockchain, making all car-related data accessible when purchasing, maintaining, or selling years later.

Interestingly, Generation Z worldwide tends to attach greater importance to their digital assets over their tangible possessions, utilizing them for avatars or as investment options.

The digital world is witnessing the emergence of massive digital economies rooted in gamified universes, offering opportunities to invest in virtual music concerts during online gaming sessions.

AO: How could the low and medium-developing economies benefit from this digital evolution?

KJ: An enormous surge in demand is evident in the MENA region for these digital economies, with investments pouring into a myriad of sectors, including but not limited to, virtual tourism and tokenomics - the guiding principles and regulations for cryptocurrencies. The digital economy is poised to unlock boundless opportunities, enabling consumers to create services and products tailored for businesses in the virtual realm and propel value creation through intellectual properties. Consider, for instance, the potential of Egyptians constructing a digital replica of Cairo in the metaverse, leveraging the brilliant minds of their youth. This endeavor could evolve into a substantial enterprise activity, integrating local merchants, virtual storefronts, and generating significant revenue.

AO: What is required from the policymakers and the different stakeholders to create a vivid digital ecosystem as you explained?

KJ: In emerging economies actively seeking market potential, it is crucial to foster harmony between regulatory bodies, compliance teams, and market innovators. Doing so will enable us to progress at an accelerated pace.

Egypt, blessed with a young demographic that is propelling the use of digital wallets and value exchanges, is ripe for such advancements. The tech-savvy Egyptian youth are primed for these emerging market opportunities. As you glance around, everyone seems engrossed in their smartphones, indicating the pre-existing potential for divergent virtual spaces and economies.

What we need to do is construct the opportunities, establish the rules, and ensure compliance to generate immense value across societal spectrums. As we look to the future, AI will become increasingly prevalent in education, with students benefitting from their own virtual tutors. The UAE has already set a precedent by initiating directives from the government level downwards to invest in digital ecosystems. This top-down approach is expected to expedite the digital transformation process.

AO: How far is the global recession affecting growth of the digital economy?

KJ: The influence of geopolitics on marketplaces is an undeniable reality. Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a doubling of the time individuals spend on video games. In the MENA region, a pool of 350 million gamers presents a substantial market opportunity. This increasing demand for the metaverse and digital services among gamers is not merely a technological shift but a cultural revolution.

AO: How could we create this environment of trust in the digital world?

KJ: We act as a catalyst in the digital economy, employing artificial intelligence to safeguard a staggering 150 billion real-time transactions. This technology is instrumental in providing necessary security on an international scale. However, the rapid advancement of technology outpaces the progress made in updating regulatory laws and compliances. Thus, regulators must act swiftly to construct secure frameworks that can accommodate innovative ideas and AI startups. If they fail to do so, these initiatives will migrate to countries more prepared to accept and nurture this technological growth.

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