Walking through Eureka Park at CES is like stepping through the collective mind of invention. The Park specialises in startups, providing them with a unique platform to launch a new product, service, or idea. It offers an exhilarating glimpse into the future, and as a visitor you know you may be witnessing the birth of what could be one of the most important innovations of the future. But the skill is in sensing and sorting the brilliant from the baffling, no mean feat when new products and ideas are at their most awkward, confusing, yet hopeful stage of development.
As the OMD Ignition Factory (OMD USA’s Innovation unit) guided us on our curated tour through the halls filled with holograms, robots, hearables (yes, that’s right, the latest word coined to describe smart headphones), and the connected home, I wondered how I could distill the most pertinent and meaningful points for our clients. What was the story that I was going to share with them so as to create useful insights and implications for their businesses? And then it dawned on me; storytelling through the senses. Eureka!
SIGHT: See it, Scan it, Stream it
One of the exhibitors that stopped us in our tracks was bellus3D, the high-resolution 3D face scanner. In just 20 seconds, your mobile phone can create a 3D image of your face which you can then share virtually with the world. The application for gaming is obvious; you can have the real you as your avatar. But you can also extend this capability into broader digital storytelling by giving people the opportunity to place themselves within content and be part of a brand’s narrative. Now that’s an interesting direction for the personalization of content strategy.
For the beauty industry, there’s the opportunity to use your 3D image within virtual make-up applications. Moreover, with the high-resolution imaging that shows every pore and wrinkle, therapists will now be able to offer virtual skincare guidance. Oh, and did I mention that you can even 3D print your own face? It sounds odd, doesn’t it? But imagine walking into an optician’s and being able to put your next pair of sunglasses on your face, look at yourself head on rather than through a mirror. That’s a practical innovation in my books.
Switching our attention to how we create and view content, hubbl offers hardware based, real-time VR streaming over broadband internet via your phone. At $1,000 a pop for a headset, you can deliver 4K-enabled personal broadcasts with ease and simplicity. That’s a phenomenal democratisation of content production because all you need is power and good infrastructure. Imagine how it could be used for meetings and smaller productions, giving a different perspective to live shows. It would offer a greater level of reality and intimacy, adding richness and authenticity to a brand’s story.
SOUND: Hear it clearer and sharper than ever before
Harnessing the power of sound is a theme that’s getting louder as we hurtle towards a voice-activated world and brands grapple with their sound strategy. After all, you can tell Alexa to turn down the volume on your smart earbuds or turn on the dishwasher because your hands are full feeding your toddler. Beyond the practical uses of voice activation, there’s also the romance of sound. The impact that music and human voices have upon our desires and emotions is something all of us know and feel.
Waveion loudspeaker claim to have solved the problem of sound distortion. These floor mounted speakers contain technology that removes the need for a membrane and by delivering a pulsating air shaft, the sound is distributed evenly and uniformly, which is key for audiophiles. There are devices like AIVIA, the voice activated, Google assisted, personal home speaker that allow you to stream content to a single media hub. When you consider the investments that people make into their home entertainment systems and the heightened expectation around sound quality, brands should give real consideration to their sonic architecture and determine the voices, music, and sonic triggers that comprise their brand identity.
TOUCH: Feel the connections
An over-arching CES theme this year is that of connection; how to connect everything in a way that delivers utility and comfort, rather than merely novelty. One of the most interesting, entertaining, and dominating entrants were the robots. There’s Buddy, the cute companion robot who can recognise facial expressions and be controlled by your mobile phone so you can check in on your children when you’re at work, stay connected to your elderly parents, or turn off your lights when you’re on a business trip. There’s UBtech’s Lynx, the humanoid robot which can teach your kids football (or soccer), or guide you through a yoga session whilst playing you soothing music throughout, thanks to the integration with Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service. The infusion of emotional attributes to tech has made it far more palatable and with price points as low as US$749, you know this is going to be popular.
Smart wearables and, more specifically, sporting garments received a lot of attention for it’s now the garment itself that is the computer. From Sensoria which has worked with Microsoft to create smart golf gloves with sensors that correct your swing consistency, to D-AIR, the wearable airbag system for motorcyclists, we’re seeing data being used to make athletes perform better but also feel safer.
As the Internet of Things continues to connect more devices to each other and churn out more data, how you make people feel at the most fundamental human level remains of critical importance. Storytelling has always been our way of making sense of the world and that need for sense and meaning is essential as we navigate our way through Eureka Park. Remember this and the inventions and innovations across the halls of CES become a joy to explore as you consider how to inject freshness and experimentation into your brand stories and strategies in 2017.