I Used a Just-Launched AI Tool to Find a Christmas Present for My Fiancé. It Didn’t Go As Expected — But It Was Definitely an Eye Opener.

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Over the past year, we’ve witnessed generative AI‘s potential to make our lives a lot easier, saving us time on quite a range of activities, from the relatively simple task of locating well-regarded restaurants in a new city to more complex feats, like drafting a tailored resume and cover letter. Now, with the arrival of the holiday season and the lengthy to-do list that comes with it, you might be wondering how AI can help you tick off some season-specific boxes.

Maybe you’re trying to plan the ultimate holiday party or choose the perfect gift for a significant other. The good news? There’s an AI tool for both. But we’ve also seen that AI, which learns patterns from existing information, has certain limitations. Consider recent examples like Microsoft’s AI-generated fake MSN news articles or Sports Illustrated‘s recent AI-fueled publishing debacle.

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It would seem that if AI isn’t generating wholly new content yet (and at this point, the technology available to the general public is not), then its ability to get the job done still rests squarely with the humans who use it, and largely depends on how they use it.

Anyone can make an AI tool — no coding required

I tried a new AI-powered gift-recommendation tool that drove that fact home. The tool launched on YouAi’s MindStudio, which allows users to create custom AIs for consumers, small businesses and enterprises — no coding required. The AI gift-recommendation tool is one of the platform’s many holiday-oriented apps, including a holiday party planner, holiday charity matcher and holiday playlist curator.

“MindStudio is a platform that you can learn to use really quickly by watching an 18-minute YouTube tutorial,” YouAi CEO Dmitry Shapiro told me over the phone. “And then after that, you become basically an AI creator, an AI developer. You don’t need to write any code. Anybody can learn to use it. My 9-year-old son can make AIs.”

MindStudio is model-agnostic and supports more than a dozen language learning models, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and more than 50,000 people have signed up to be AI creators on the platform, Shapiro says, adding that those creators have already launched over 10,000 AI apps that solve problems for consumers and businesses.

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Trying the just-launched AI tool to find my fiancé a present

I used the AI gift-recommendation tool available on YouAi to search for a Christmas gift for my fiancé. The tool requires users to input a budget for the gift, the recipient of the gift and the recipient’s interests. I opted for a budget of $200, hoping it would give the tech some leeway to get creative but also narrow its focus, selected my fiancé as the recipient, then turned to the interests field.

That’s where things got tricky. The app’s prompt — “Can you provide me with some of their interests?” — is wide open to interpretation. How specific to get? I decided to go the more general route first, listing “travel,” “sports,” “food” and “cocktails.” Perhaps predictably, the seven “personalized gift ideas” it came up with were fairly general: travel scratch map ($20-$30), gourmet food basket ($50-$80), cocktail mixology set ($80-$100), sports memorabilia ($100-$150), travel adapter and power bank ($30-$50), food tour experience ($100-$150) and sports equipment ($150–$200).

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Each suggestion was accompanied by one to three stores where the gift was available — or so it seemed. Many of the recommendations, including that first travel scratch map, had online retailer Uncommon Goods listed as an option, along with another website I wasn’t familiar with, Expertly Chosen Goods. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Expertly Chosen offers its own gift-recommendation tool and then directs users to other websites where they can buy. So, yes, you could find the travel scratch map on Expertly Chosen, but you’d end up making that purchase on Uncommon Goods anyway. I encountered a similar re-route with another recommendation, which wasn’t a retailer but a recipe blog with an article on “45 experience gifts for adults” linking to its picks.

Next, I decided to get more specific with the interests field to see how that might shape the results. So, with the budget still set at $200, I plugged in “international travel,” “trying new restaurants and cocktail bars,” “making cocktails” and “playing and watching soccer.” That returned results including a cocktail-making kit, a soccer jersey of a favorite team, a travel accessories set, a restaurant gift card, and a soccer ball and pump. Curiously, it didn’t list the estimated price range of each gift as it had before, but it did say that all of the gifts were within the $200 budget.

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The details I added didn’t move the needle much; the tool modified its suggestions slightly based on those specifics, returning somewhat similar, not-super-creative options. But that’s when I started to wonder — was I expecting too much from the tool? On the call, Shapiro noted that he couldn’t speak to the development of this particular tool, as he wasn’t the one who’d developed it, of course.

Considering the very human variable in AI tool usage

With that in mind, I started to think about who might benefit from this tool the most. It might not be best suited for someone trying to find a highly personalized, out-of-the-box holiday present for a person they know very well and have bought gifts for in the past. But it might be ideal for someone searching for a relatively personalized — if not exactly groundbreaking — gift for a person who’s more of an acquaintance.

I tested the theory by using the tool for a fictional co-worker whose interests include coffee, cats, gardening, baking and knitting. I set the budget at $50 and was hit with the brand of personalization I’d come to expect: a coffee-lovers gift set, cat-themed baking apron, gardening tool set, knitting starter kit and personalized recipe book, all promised to clock in at or under $50. It was more effective than when I’d been searching for my fiancé’s gift, to be sure, though the store selections still left some to be desired, and the knitting starting kit was a bit of a head-scratcher, assuming my fictional co-worker is already a knitter. But, overall, I could see the tool’s potential to streamline the gift-buying process for a colleague or other acquaintance.

Related: AI Increases Worker Productivity By 14% — That’s Why Embracing It in This Key Area Will Make Your Business Stronger.

The gift-recommendation tool might not have worked for my purposes, but it could help someone else — yet another example of AI‘s power residing with its users, whose own knowledge and objectives significantly impact the outcome. On the whole, YouAi’s MindStudio takes that idea to an extreme, giving tens of thousands of creators a chance to try their hand at designing AI tools that could solve someone’s problems, even if just their own.

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