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(cross-posted from the space150 blog)

We recently attended CES 2017 in Las Vegas. This year, our annual pilgrimage to tech’s biggest showcase underscored a lot of what we’ve been exploring at space150 in 2016, including voice-enabled devices and VR, but in many instances set the stage for new exploration in 2017. From a new definition of sensory perception to diverging definition for the future of mobility. One thing was clear – 2017 will be exciting.

Below, please find trends we’re watching in 2017 and beyond following CES:

Assistance Through Assistants

While a decade ago, cameras and photos were the function that drove tech, today, microphones are the new cameras. More and more, on-demand, voice-enabled is becoming mainstream. Amazon and their Alexa won CES, and they didn’t even have a formal presence.

While this may mean some very useless and rudimentary experimentation with voice assistants in the short-term, we also saw some gems. Whirlpool, for example, announced appliances that respond to your voice (via Alexa), as did Ford. GE also rolled out voice-enabled appliances. The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly practical and affordable, and no where are voice assistants more logical than when built into these systems. I think about my kids who have an expectation for touch screens – but this lays out a future that is much more on-demand. Imagine your child’s first word is “Alexa” or “Ok, Google”.

There was also a lot of buzz about the over complication of consumer devices by making them IoT-capable. Does a hairbrush or clothes iron need an app? Not today (although those products also launched at CES 2017). But the more data we have and greater connectivity of our lives, the more possibility advertisers have to truly understand how consumers act, use products and understand messages. Today, I can ask Alexa in my kitchen to start my car or how much gas is left, and that would have seemed ridiculous five years ago. Now you can turn on and check the status of your iron, coffee pot and crock pot the same way.

What does this mean for brands? As agencies and marketers, we need to help brands think through how screenless and voice-controlled interfaces so that we can add value to the consumer. What is your consumer’s experience with your brand using solely their voice, and how can you provide value day-to-day for them by connecting your existing apps, databases and your knowledge of them? At space150, we launched an Alexa Skill in December, and we’re still learning from that as we build these for clients — interaction design, tonality and more. 

Adding New Senses to Experience Design, UX and Products

On that note – and in addition to Voice, at CES we saw a significant amount of innovations in audio, gestures and haptics. More and more we saw the idea of going beyond the touchscreen to actually bringing feeling to our digital lives. This isn’t smell-o-vision. These are screens and air gestures we can genuinely feel as if they are physical objects.

We saw haptic (touch) technology coming to  shoes, shirts, dashboards, TVs and touchscreens. One of the more interesting demos we saw was Tanvas, which wants to add the ability to feel texture on a touchscreen with a new haptic feedback technology rooted in ultrasonics. Imagine a world where a haptic forcefield could keep your fingers away from hot surfaces such as an oven. That was a demo, and it was impressive (assuming you can keep bacon grease out of the tiny speakers). We also saw VR shoe demos designed to give the wearer the feeling of rough or wet texture. It’s early for this technology, but it’s certainly an area we’ll be monitoring. 

For brands, this mean that we need to start thinking about senses beyond sight and designing for touch. Textures, gestures and feelings will dramatically change how we think about user experiences and how our customers interact with our content, apps and products. 

VR Entering the Age of Inside-Out Enlightenment

Every single major brand (auto/electronics/home/IoT/drone/photography/etc) had some type of VR, 360º or AR experience in their booth this year to tell their story to attendees using immersive media. Most of the experiences were rudimentary and focused more on using VR/AR technology to build a line at the booth versus telling an amazing story using this new medium. But that wasn’t the story worth telling this year.

The biggest VR product launches worth noting at CES 2017 were: 1) Wireless VR coming thanks to new HTC Vive options, and 2) Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Power Rangers Demo, which shows the true future of inside-out VR — powered by your phone, not a helmet hooked to a powerful computer. Think Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream except it’s six degrees of freedom. This is truly walk-around VR, not 360º video or just up/down/left/right controls.

This is the future of VR/AR — wireless experiences powered by your phone, and we caught a glimpse this year. And although it’s early days, the future of these experiences will be mobile. But the technology is going to take time to get there, from hardware to software to the developer kits that make them run. Marketers should focus on how to tell stories people care about with this new tech as part of their toolboxes. Inside-out, mobile VR is only going to grow, but the only way to be ready for the future is to understand where we’re at today.

Autonomous Cars are on a Mainstream Collision Course

One of the more interesting anecdotes we heard at CES this year was from Shelly Palmer, who advises companies like Verizon on innovation. He relayed a story about Ford CEO Alan Mullaly at CES in 2012 who said at that time that, due to risk and regulations and insurance and human nature, we would never see autonomous cars in our lifetime. But here we are five years later and CES was aflame with autonomous, self-driving and assisted driving innovation.

This year, every major automaker was showing off self-driving templates, sensors, and technology that envision a much different future than what Mr. Mullaly claimed in 2012. In fact, Ford has now announced production of a fully autonomous ride-sharing fleet by 2021. The competition fierce with each company taking a different path. However, what was clear is that driving as we know it now looks much much different in the future. It will change very drastically in the coming years, and every single car company at the show (including Honda, their first year) was showing off their take on this emerging tech.

For brands, we are at the beginning of a post-ownership and post-human-driver age, and that’s worth noting. Volkswagen painted a picture (via VR demo) of all the free time consumers will have in their vehicles when they don’t have to concentrate on driving. This means brands will have new moments to capture a consumer’s attention and new considerations for when, where and how we can engage them with a brand message during this downtime. It also means smart brands are going to starting thinking about this tech ecosystem early to be prepared.

Robots Are Real

One of our least favorite “trends” this year was the continued infatuation with anthropomorphic robots — or robots that look and act like humans.

The media coverage coming out of the show seemed fixated on some examples of robots that walk like us, play chess like us, follow us around and read to our kids. In our opinion these are a distraction from some of the more innovative ways that AI and computer-assistance are really positioned to improve our lives. Because, the robots — machines capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer — are already here. They’re in our pockets, our cars, our homes and workplaces.

We’re seeing less desire year-over-year for C3PO-style, Rosie The Robot-style tech, and believe brands should instead be laser focused on creating intelligent systems that tie to the cloud and improve our lives.

How Brands Told Stories in Unique Ways at CES 2017

Finally, we saw some tremendous brand storytelling that tapped into emerging tech at this year’s show. Specifically, we would call out a few brands:

  • American Express (client) used CES as an opportunity to unveil an Escape Room for visitors with branded clues.
  • Meanwhile Intel used AR/Hololens tech to showcase storytelling with “invisible” technology.
  • Finally, leveraging the upcoming Power Rangers movie, Qualcomm used CES to create buzz for its new inside-out VR tracking, using a Power Rangers helmet.

Check out our video run-down below. We shot the whole thing using Snapchat Spectacles for that POV feeling. Based on the trajectory of the trends we saw, we expect 2018 to be an even more innovative year for CES. 

What’s Next?

Join space150 for Excited for Change: 2017 Trends for the Modern Marketer in Minneapolis on January 8th. Our VP of Brand Innovation, Greg Swan, will be leading this MIMA panel with leaders from Land O’Lakes Inc., Thomson Reuters, Fjorge and Regis for a forward-looking discussion on 2017 trends, what’s next, and how to avoid fad fatigue in 2017.

Tickets available here.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the annual international destination for the most forward-looking technology each year, and Weber Shandwick supports clients on the ground and remotely each year.

But we also view the show as a look into what’s next, what’s dead and where brands should be focusing their efforts. This year we logged more than 40,000 steps checking out the amazing launches from the tech world’s brand behemoths, but also digging into the small start-ups hoping to make it big.

It’s a show of bigger, better and more.

Here are three of the top trends from 2015:

Virtual Reality (VR)

This year there were more booths with Oculus Rift VR demos than companies selling the cameras and software needed to create content for the popular helmet. However, there were many companies exploring new ways to maneuver in 3D and IRL realms, including via feet, ears, wrist and shoes. And NFC tattoos. One company was handing out branded Google Cardboard as tchotchkes.

Implication: Rift, Gear and Cardboard should be viewed as a gateway products designed to test the waters of new user behavior and how humans interact with each other, entertain ourselves and experience the digital world. But one-off 3D tours or videos are forgettable experiences consumers will quickly dismiss. Brands must be thinking of their long-term VR plans, even if that’s a test and learn approach.

The Growing World of Smart Everything

It seems to be common knowledge that if a device can send a notification to your phone, then it’s awesome. And enchanted objects — regardless of how life-improving they may be — make non-smart objects look all the more dumb. But with all of the talk about smart watches, smart activity trackers, smart homes and smart wallets, none of it actually plays very well together. And not a lot of it solves immediate problems. There were at least two car companies at CES 2015 demonstrating vehicles that will park themselves when the user pushes a button on their watch. Is that really something that’s necessary?

Implication: Last year, the threat of an Apple Watch loomed over the wrist wearable and smart watch vendors. This year Apple stole some mindshare by announcing a March launch date on the first day of the show. Despite the popularity of certain activity trackers and smart watches in early 2015, brands should be thinking of their device-agnostic smart watch content strategy today. Yes: smart watch content strategy is a thing. As for the Internet of Things coming to our cars and homes, it’s important to remember we’re in the early stages, and without a unified language and data privacy advances, many of today’s smartest products will live in isolation. It’s lonely being a Thing in the Internet of Things, you know.

Ubiquity of Sensors and the Maturation of Haptics

As sensors continue to drop in price and increase in utility and ease of implementation, look for even more smart technology and well-meaning but misinformed consumers interacting with it. For example, we witnessed people walking up to strangers and letting them plop a brain scanner on their noggin without a semblance of acknowledgement there could be side effects — or who owned the data from the experience. But there’s hope, too! The accessibility of sensors means we can start to solve new problems and introduce new use cases for technology we had never considered.

Implication: The implementation of haptic (tactile feedback) technology in our phones, car dashboards and computers means users may soon no longer just use the sense of vision to interact with a device (or experience a brand’s content!). Sure, your website is mobile responsive so it looks good on desktop/tablet/phone, but what does it feel like? And one company has built a wearable sensor that allows ear wiggling to control actions on a phone or computer.

Okay, so you may be rolling your eyes at ear wiggling smart things or brain-controlled remote control cars (both of which we experienced at CES 2015), but there is a completely new generation of additive technology solutions worth paying attention to as we dream about what’s here, what’s dead and where brands should be focusing their efforts. — Greg Swan, @gregswan

More on CES 2015 here:
73 cool new consumer technology innovations from CES 2015
https://gregswan.net/2015/01/10/73-cool-new-consumer-technology-innovations-from-ces-2015/
CES 2015: Technology Gets Personal
http://www.webershandwick.com/news/article/ces-2015-technology-gets-personal
CES 2015: Hardware is Back
http://www.webershandwick.com/news/article/ces-2015-hardware-is-back

ces 2015 Ah, the Consumer Electronics Show: the annual international destination for the most forward-looking technology each year, matched with a frenetic navel-gazing from industry insiders that pales only to the self-aggrandizing swagger of the tech world’s brand behemoths, and big promises from baby hardware start-ups hoping to make it big on a non-working plastic prototype and a semi-polished sales pitch.

Oh, and there are always more than a few gems that make it all worthwhile.

It’s a huge show. I logged 40,000 steps walking every aisle of the show floor over 48 hours, and I’m sure I still missed something.

It’s my third trip to Vegas for the annual tech toy fest. The first was seven years ago (2008 recap); then last year (2014 recap).

For 2015, I can tell you I was inspired, underwhelmed and energized at what I found at this year’s show. This was a year of paradox for a culture in the age of technology transition.

There were more booths with Oculus Rift virtual reality demos than companies selling the 360 degree cameras and software needed to create content for it. However, there were many companies exploring new ways to maneuver in 3D and IRL realms, including via feet, ears, wrist and shoes. And NFC tattoos.

There was more talk about autonomous cars as a guaranteed reality than the infrastructure and near-term, baby-step innovations required to support a more realistic evolution.

The TVs this year were truly more picturesque than real life. Except the majority of programming is just finally starting to catch up to 4k, so buying an 8k TV would be lots of wasted pixels.

I witnessed people walking up to strangers and letting them plop a brain scanner on their noggin without a semblance of acknowledgement there could be side effects — or who owned the data from the experience.

There were drones galore. Talk about smart watches, smart homes and smart wallets. But none of it actually plays very well together, and not a lot of it solves immediate problems.

It seems to be common knowledge that if a device can send a notification to your phone, then it’s awesome. I struggle to disagree with this assessment, myself. And enchanted objects — regardless of how life-improving they may be — make non-smart objects look all the more dumb.

There were an increased number of 3D printers this year, and an encouraging base of 3D handheld scanners and material providers growing up to bolster the category.

Last year, the threat of an Apple Watch loomed over the wrist wearable and smart watch vendors. This year Apple stole some mindshare by announcing a March launch date on the first day of the show.

Meanwhile, the rise in haptic technology is truly amazing, and I look forward to that category growing into our computers, wearables and autos. Although, someone will surely get burned (literally), and I fear miseducation will impede its adoption. I guess we’ll see.

Here are some of the advancements I saw this year that caught my eye, separated into the following categories:

  • Virtual Reality
  • The Future of Hands Free
  • Technology to Impact Your Daily Life
  • The Future of Personal Transportation
  • Television
  • The Drones are Coming!
  • Internet of Things
  • Robots, because CES
  • Music
  • The Ridiculous Side of CES

Here we go!
Continue Reading…

Per my latest post on Google Almanac: Google Glass Makes You a Celebrity (In the Right Settings), check this out…

What's that thing on your face?

I have at least 10 more of these pics, including more with multiple folks in the shot!

I’m thinking about starting AreYouTakingAPictureOfMe.Tumblr.com

Also: this…

Google Glass celebrity

IMG_7265If my Grandpa was still alive he would be turning 100 this year.

A common saying when I would go visit my grandparents and show off a toy — particularly anything that plugged in or took a battery was, “What will they think of next?”

And if my Speak & Spell and light up shoes were awe-inspiring, you can imagine what someone who grew up on a farm with no electricity or running water would think of Google Glass and drone-mounted cameras.

It’s not clear who THEY are, but it was evident they’ve been busy as I walked around the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

You can see all of the #whatlltheythinkofnext Vines I filmed the jump (and yes, I know they break my WordPress template. Maybe THEY could come up with a way to better embed video in a WordPress.com blog).

Continue Reading…

iOptik at CES

Innovega’s Optik system received lots of recent trade press for their special contact lenses that will read the light from projectors fitted to glasses. They were one of my first stops at the CES show this year.

According to Innovega: The key feature of the iOptik display is the enhancement of the wearer’s vision by giving the ability to focus on media that is placed very near to the eye without affecting normal vision. This vision enhancement allows the wearer to view near-eye microdisplays as easily as viewing real objects at normal distances. This vision enhancement eliminates the need to mount large optics into the video eyewear. Removing these optics allows for compact and stylish eyewear products. It is this architecture’s ability to deliver very large and rich HD/3D digital content without disturbing one’s normal vision and from a compact and stylish format visionthat distinguishes the iOptik from all other wearable displays. The stylish iOptik™ form-factor is distinguished from all other display architectures.

iOpik glasses at CES

Except the exhibitors weren’t actually giving human demos at CES, so I had to settle for holding the contact in my hand inside a small glass vial and fiddling with the clunky, plastic sunglass frames while the rep went into great detail about how they worked (see above paragraph, plus you could actually see the hole in the middle of the lens where the eye would be allowed to see farther differences). Regardless of the hands-on demo opportunities, I spent about 10 minutes in the booth, and the crowd was thick the entire time.

It was surreal to hold a tiny contact in your hand and know it has the power to redefine communication, media and how we interact with brands and each other.

iOptik smart contact lenses

Early adopters, like Glass Explorers, are excited about smart lens technology — whether it’s glasses or contacts — but it’s evident there is a long way to go to turn the lens of your eye into something remotely like the display of your computer (or something better!).

Maybe by this time next year there will be real live humans wearing smart contact lenses. Maybe.

Geoff Livingston says the marketing industry is pivoting from social media to the Internet of Things, and he’s completely correct.

My colleagues are growing tired of me repeating this, but I’m not sure this has fully soaked in with our industry peers.

Social media is no longer an emerging trend. Facebook turns 10 years old next month. 10. Twitter is 7. Foursquare is almost 5. Social media is a normal method of communication and engagement in 2014. Media that is social is now mainstream, and therefore we marketers need to be thinking about what’s next, how and why.

My primary takeaway of SXSW 2013 last March was a focus on human + tech experience over social:

Technology empowers us and betters our lives in so many ways other than Facebook Likes and mommy blog posts (don’t get me wrong, I love a good mommy blog post). It was fantastic to see true innovation this year — ambient umbrellas that forecast the weather, replication technology to make copies of physical objects, affordable flying machines (drones), and more.

CES 2014 will be more about enchanted objects that connect to the always-on web than communications and marketing, but it’s not difficult to apply the context of engagement and selling products and services to increasingly connected devices.

If you can put a sensor on something, it will soon have sensors. And it will be generating data that can allow companies to better learn about, market to, and share content with consumers. For example, even our toothbrushes will soon log our brushing stats with our mobile device and the cloud. If I sell toothpaste, toothbrushes or dental insurance, I should get in on that. You get my point.

Because marketing and consumer engagement in 2014 is so much more than real-time social media posts, user generated content and native advertising. On the shift from social to the Internet of Things, Livingston says:

It’s not a big surprise, after all 73 percent of online adults in the United States now use at least one social network site. Really, the only big things that happened last year in social were private messaging which seems like a reaction against public forms of social media and video social networking.

It’s not that businesses won’t continue spending on social or that PR people/community managers will be out of work. Far from it. Social isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s a primary driver of data needed for contextual media and word of mouth trust. Social remains a valuable asset for companies.

It’s just that, well, social media marketing is not new anymore. You could argue that companies are in the learning phase, but last I checked they were still determining how to build a decent website, too.

Plus companies just seem to fail when it comes to connecting with people online. The native advertising boom acknowledges that brands would rather pay to play than do the hard work of scaling social media communities.

So if social media has peaked, what should marketers be paying attention to?

New opportunities for consumer engagement and reach including and beyond social media.

It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how quickly we go back to Facebook and Twitter campaigns in our brainstorm and strategy sessions. Those sessions need to be disrupted by the fact that social media is in double digits now. The kids have moved on, and we need to be thinking about what’s next.

We must be focusing on opportunities like: wearable devices that create new opportunities to share content with context (like smartwatches and smart lenses/glasses), converting big and earned data into value (this may or may not include ingestible smart devices); digital and brand innovation beyond social media campaigns (I don’t care that your brand wished me a Merry Christmas; neither do your customers); and change management programs to help companies deliver on the two-way communication and listening programs they may have started with social media, but now need to mature.

As I head to CES, I’m excited about sensor innovation, connected devices, and new and disruptive technology that truly solves problems. I’ll be tweeting and blogging and posting to Facebook, of course.

I’m not foregoing social media. Rather, I’m building on its foundation and looking forward to the next thing.

Are you?

Some good reads:

CES 2008

Six years ago I busted out my brand new Flip Video Camera (!!!) and brand new Nikon D40 (!!) and spent four days walking around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) checking out the latest tech and communication innovations of the time.

CES 2008 hit in the midst of the iPod vs. Zune wars, the Blu-ray vs HD DVD wars, Nintendo’s Wii system surpassing Xbox and Playstation in sales, and Apple TV facing skepticism due to light sales, as critics considered that consumers were not really ready to buy and consume video entertainment via the web.

Don’t forget this was two years before the introduction of the iPad, almost two years before Avatar and the 3D TV boom, three years before the Nintendo 3DS, four years before the Nike Fuelband, and five years before Google Glass. In brief, compared to today, it was a simpler time in consumer tech.

I spent some time going through my photo and video archives from CES 2008, and the result is a unique look into what tech trends are still popular (giant TVs, helper robots), what are no longer popular (Zune, Fergie) and a handful of glimpses into the future (touchscreen experiences, mobile apps).

Highlights include: walls of giant TVs, fountains pouring water down TVs, booth babes playing electric cellos, harps and violins, giant car stereos, more walls of giant TVs, displays showing the features of the newest flip phones, a “dance with Fergie” photo booth, a giant Zune booth, Microsoft Surface demos, race car immersion experiences, toothbrush sterilizers, award-winning Guitar Hero controllers, smart toilets, networked computer banks, a touchscreen Yahoo mobile widget display (with links to MySpace, MTV and eBay), a 35 foot tall Bumblebee from the original Transformers movie, robots, Roombas, more robots, and a laser mounted household paper towel dispenser, faucet and garbage can.

Bumblebee, CES 2008

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In one of the smaller conference spaces (the best parts, if you ask me), I came across these young guys who designed the iShoes — electric snowshoes that go 13 mph. It turned out they were from Eden Prairie, MN.

iShoes, CES 2008

Later, I came around the corner from a wall of giant TVs and experienced a handful of geeks with their feet in buckets of brown sludge. It was an Alimtox footbath detox station and so out of place I started filming with my Flipcam.

You can hear the guy with his feet in a bucket at the end of the video say, “This will be streaming later today,” and me say, “That’s true, actually.”

Because that was a unique happening six years ago. Today, it’s the norm.

And here’s a full demo of the Microsoft Surface, which is fascinating not because the trend of giant touchscreen tabletops became a reality, but because mini-touchscreen tablets (iPads) are absolutely mainstream six years later.

Microsoft Surface, CES 2008

In another hall, I experienced the joy of Guitar Hero Air Guitar Rocker, of which I wrote this at the time:

Guitar Hero, CES 2008

As if pretending to play the guitar didn’t already make you a lame-o, check this out.

It’s the Guitar Hero brand Air Guitar Rocker from Jada Toys, with a GH-branded belt, wearable amp programmed with 10 songs and special pick you strum in front of the belt. It also has an output for external speakers. Songs include 5 originals plus Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”

It’s actually quite harder to play than it looks. This guy was really horrible. But then again, it’s nothing nearly as hard as actually learning to play an instrument.

One morning Robert Scoble organized a DSLR photo walk at 6 a.m. down the Las Vegas strip. Four of us showed up. Afterward we went out for breakfast and he turned to me holding his giant Nokia phone, said “We’re live. Introduce yourself,” and I found myself talking to a couple hundred folks on Qik. Another “first” and precursor to live- and life-streaming that is so prevalent today.

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

That week I also toured the How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb exhibit at The Atomic Testing Museum (original post here), which I think about and/or reference at least monthly to this day. All of those guys are dead now.

I also hit The Beatles’ Cirque du Soleil show “Love” at the Mirage (full review here). It was stellar, crappy Blackberry camera phone pics notwithstanding.

So that was only 6 years ago…
As we reflect on the tech trends of early 2008 and prepare for CES 2014, we’re entering an era where smartphone and tablet factory revenue are expected to exceed the entire consumer electronics market this year, and for the first time, as mobile demand continues to outpace more traditional technology. And consumer confidence toward technology is rising to some of its highest levels — dating to late 2007.

We live in a special time for technology innovation, and it’s exciting to go into this year’s CES with eyes wide open that