By: John Kamman, Wholesum
In most ways, it seems as if the field of outfitting and guiding couldn’t be further from the world of artificial intelligence. Outfitting/Guiding is a domain grounded in reality: trails, rivers, and natural spaces - you can touch, breathe, see, and smell the tangibility of it. In what appears to be a very different realm, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is on the leading edge of advanced technology and untethered from our physical senses and experiences. While that might be true, there’s a wave of change coming in the world we share that is poised to affect all industries, regardless of their participation.
The outfitting industry might not be affected as directly as some industries (I don’t foresee AI raft guides anytime soon!) but as someone who works in the tech sector – both through our software tool for outfitters, Wholesum, and as a consultant for nonprofits – I’ve seen some amazing changes, advancements and risks in the past few months that are likely to impact all sectors to some degree as a result of generative AI. AI will soon be incorporated into most parts of the internet that you interact with. Knowing the advantages and pitfalls of the AI-wave as a business owner will become an important part of staying relevant, efficient, and secure.
Photo generated on Adobe Firefly: a woman kayaking with a life jacket
What is Generative AI?
Generative AI, like ChatGPT and other tools making waves, refers to a category of artificial intelligence that focuses on creating new content, such as text, images, or even music, by learning patterns from existing data and generating novel outputs that mimic the style and structure of the input or prompt. While it can often feel like “intelligence”, it’s essentially a way to create content and answer questions, generated by computers with access to huge amounts of data. You might be familiar with smaller versions of this already: the auto-fill text when you’re googling something or the next word predictions when you’re drafting a text message.
Dos and Don'ts for using AI
DO use AI to enhance your existing software tools: Some of the tools you’re already familiar as an outfitter are actively incorporating AI into their platforms. Here’s a quick list of some America Outdoors partners who have already started down this path:
Wholesum - an online tool to streamline group menu planning - just launched a new tool using AI to automatically generate recipes (eg. “write a recipe for dutch oven lasagna”), draft clear cooking instructions for recipes, and an AI chatbot that is trained on all support articles.
Resmark - an online reservation system- recently released a new tool to help draft content for webpages, create SEO tags, translate to other languages, or fix spelling and grammar.
PicThrive - a photo sales and marketing tool for outfitters - has incorporated an AI-driven image enhancement tool to improve photo quality from outfitters to clean up those photos from cloudy or overexposed days.
TOMIS - a marketing software and service provider - is no stranger to the AI world and has been using an artificial intelligence model to power their ChatBot for several years.
Zebulon LLC - a financial and strategic consulting firm for the outdoor sector - has incorporated AI into their financial analysis for clients and partners to help identify trends and insights.
DO use AI to Generate content ideas / drafts: Have writers block when drafting text for a job description, for a new policy, blog post, or marketing email? Try tools like ChatGPT to have it create a first draft, lists of ideas or to proofread/improve existing copy.
DON’T use AI content as the final draft: AI tools like ChatGPT can do a phenomenal job drafting new content/ideas but it often tends to be generic, miss the mark, or be down-right wrong. If you turn to AI to draft some content, make sure it goes through heavy review from a real person before ever hitting the press.
DO use AI for graphic design: If you’re already familiar with Adobe’s products for graphic design, tools like Adobe Firefly and Canva have built AI models that will help you make beautiful graphics for your business print marketing, social media, or website.
DON’T feed private information to AI: We’re entering the “Wild West” phase of AI and there are plenty of gray areas around data ownership and what can be used to “train” the AI’s. A good general rule of thumb is to never submit any data or content that you wouldn’t mind being shared publicly.
Do have a backup plan: If generative AI is built into the technology and software solutions your business relies on, make sure you have a conversation with your tech providers about what happens if the AI tool (like Chat GPT) is unavailable, and ensure you have a backup plan that your team is aware of.
What better way to end an article on Artificial Intelligence than to have generative AI write the final paragraph? The following was produced by ChatGPT, unedited, after reading the above article:
“In conclusion, while outfitting and AI may appear to be unlikely companions, the AI wave is set to reach all industries, including outdoor recreation. Understanding how to harness AI's potential while being mindful of its limitations is crucial for business owners aiming to thrive in this ever-evolving landscape. By embracing AI for its strengths, whether in software enhancement, content generation, or proofreading, and by ensuring responsible usage, we can navigate this AI-driven future wisely and effectively, benefiting both our businesses and the wider community.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Kamman is the owner/founder of Wholesum Food Calculator, an online platform that helps outfitters manage group menus and create accurate shopping and packing lists.
Thank you to all who contributed to this article: Wholesum Food Calculator, Online Impact Group, Resmark, The Flybook, PicThrive, Zebulon LLC, and TOMIS.