The Future Is Now: Key Learnings for Experiential Marketers at CES

Everybody knows if you want the lowdown on the latest and greatest trends in consumer technology, you must make the annual pilgrimage to the mother of all tech conferences: CES. This year, CES celebrated its 50th year in existence, welcoming over 170,000 attendees, including a few of IMG LIVE’s own tech experts.

After 3,490 miles in the air, 7.33 miles on foot, 18+ hours of research and over 600 pictures and videos, here are the key takeaways from our time at CES.

Highlights:

Technology On Demand – Artificial intelligence was the darling of this year’s convention. The biggest winner in the AI space was Amazon’s Alexa, with thousands of companies integrating more than 7,000 smart skills into their products. Emotech’s Olly also generated a lot of buzz for its ability to develop a unique personality customizable for each user depending on their interaction patterns. In other words, Olly gets smarter the more you talk to it, displaying empathy and personality unlike anything seen before. In form, Olly moved away from taking a humanoid approach in favor of more of a sleek home appliance that fits into any home décor.

Samsung VRSamsung’s standout 4D VR activation

A Virtual Revolution – VR continues to take steps in the right direction towards becoming a daily part of our lives. While many VR headsets were on display, Samsung garnered the most attention with an outstanding 4D VR experience. Participants were strapped into custom seats that used hydraulics, sound and even wind to simulate soaring through the sky in a fighter plane, bobsledding through the abyss of space or saving the world from a hostile alien invasion.

VR was in use throughout the conference, as many companies used virtual technology to showcase their latest breakthroughs. VIVE by HTC was another must see platform, showing off room scale VR in an immersive and personalized experience. VIVE incorporated motion trackers into its headset that allowed users to open car doors and press buttons as if they were in the room next to them. They also showcased a headset that incorporates headphones –  moving technology one step closer to an untethered VR world.

lg_tvLG’s OLED display wowed with color

Another Dimension – The world of TVs has once again taken a quantum leap forward. Whether you look to LG’s razor thin “wallpaper” OLED line or Sony’s ultra-sharp borderless CLEDIS TVs, there was something to inspire the imagination at every turn. 4K displays were old news, as PANDA Electronics Group ushered in 8K TVs that drew constant attention and chatter.

Aside from advancements in televisions, big names like Samsung, Sony, LG, Whirlpool and even Airbnb continued to make their products more fully integrated into the Internet of Things. Each company demonstrated how their respective products worked together with other devices, communicating with each other, to better serve the needs of today’s consumer.

hover camera

The lightweight, portable Hover Camera drone.

A New Perspective – Drone advancements were on full display at this year’s convention. The biggest players tapped into the millennial craze known as the selfie. Hover Camera was the crowd pleaser with its 4K, 13 mega-pixel camera that had face-tracking software built into a 0.52-pound frame. Extremely portable, it allowed users to capture unique content from an entirely new point of view. Cleo brought the cool factor with its pocket size “drone of the future.” The drone is roughly the size of a hockey puck and levitates directly from one’s hand, capturing the perfect selfie before returning to its owner – all while barely making a peep.

Key Learnings:

Exhibit Fabrication – Simplicity Is Key

CES was all about showing off the latest consumer technology, so manufacturers made sure to let their products shine rather than rely on a flashy build. Overall, activations had a streamlined look and feel, leaving a lot of open space for consumers to move around freely and interact with their products. However, some of the more popular booths struggled at times with consumer flow and moving people through their space, which just reinforces how important it is to think about the consumer journey and how you can alleviate congestion points.

toyota_buildToyota’s futuristic concept car, Concept-i

Content Capture – Don’t Miss a Thing

Camera stabilizers and audio equipment aren’t anything new, but the importance of quality content capture was on full display. Mini HD, 360, 180 cameras and an assortment of stabilizers were everywhere you looked, and their usage separated the novice on-looker from the professional reporter looking for the latest technology scoop. Additionally, telescopic poles, portable tripods and compact lighting ensured that every piece of on-the-spot content was top quality.

Real World Use – How CES Translates to Today’s World

While the nature of CES is to show off what the future has in store, there were a lot of products on display that can help take experiential activations to the next level today. Panasonic knocked it out the park with their “Connected Stadium” showcase. They had an army of integrated smart products that worked together seamlessly to provide consumers with an unparalleled experience.

Virtual and Augmented Reality continue to make huge technological advancements. VR devices are getting smarter and requiring less external equipment, making VR experiences even more agile and life-like. Smart AR displays are bringing our immediate world closer to the Avengers, with transparent glass displays and invisible film that use projection mapping to bring clear surfaces to life and allow consumers to interact with products in ways never seen before.

Terence Raines is an associate art director for IMG LIVE.