Quick take on what’s hot in digital right now

There’s a lot of noise in the marketing world, with industry players from all angles talking about what’s now and what’s next. What that in mind, I have some thoughts on the hottest topics that will be big bets for the near future:

    • AI

Once the stuff of science fiction, now part of the real world. Lots of commercial potential here, but how can this be best unlocked for consumers (and brands)? Current pathways to market are through tech companies, e.g. Amazon Alexa skills like Duplo stories or a Facebook chatbot. The real fun begins when digital is baked inside — which is a tough decision for companies to make, jumping off of a profitable s-curve into an unknown future. Tesla’s autopilot and Nest’s connected home give us hints, but for now we’ll just need to be satisfied with the A.I. we see in Westworld and hope that’s not what the world will become.

    • Voice

The evolution of human-computer interaction continues, from punch cards to keyboards, from mouse to touchscreen, and now from tactile to audio. The flip side of voice is that the microphones are always on, creating privacy concerns…but will consumers sell out their rights for convenience? Regardless of the outcome, it’s up to brands to do the right thing as this space evolves. Next step? Brain-to-computer connections. Yes, just like The Matrix.

    • Video

Moore’s law may not hold true like it used to and feature sets within mobile devices certainly seem to be plateauing. However, wireless bandwidth still has plenty of room for improvement (as does last mile connectivity), so video will continue to increase in importance as infrastructure improves. What’s critically important now is content and editorial — with unyielding watch-time algorithms, brands must capture attention as quickly as possible and hold attention like an eight second championship bull ride.

    • Personal data

GDPR is a huge current issue for brands and consumers are taking notice of the privacy policy updates they’re receiving from companies they forgot about years ago. In contrast example, the Cambridge Analytica situation highlights what can be done with personal data. Meanwhile, many marketers still struggle to attribute their efforts to sales. If a data-wielding company can influence the course of history, why can’t big budget brands figure it out?

    • Types of Reality

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality are all taking shape as affordable hardware finds its way to market. Most content focuses on education and entertainment; once connectivity use cases become more prevalent, we will find ourselves increasingly living and working in a virtual world. Ready player one?

Our operating environment is constantly changing; however, the pace of change seems to be slowing down — at least that’s my perspective from returning to the client-side and seeing opportunities from this side of the table over the past couple of years. Most initiatives that were recently considered innovative, particularly social media marketing, have moved into the mainstream. Today, the foundations are being established for a new wave of enterprise-shifting digital trends that require significant assets to create and capture value.

What I saw at CES

Ten observations from CES 2015

I was at CES 2015 last week. Here are some reflections, in no particular order:

1. The Internet of Things was Everywhere.

Internet of Everything

From the opening CES keynote to every 20 feet on the show floor, IoT was everywhere. But while there may be “infinite possibilities of IoT,” the question everyone will start asking in 2015 is, “but why?”

Samsung Infinite Possibilities of IoT

If IoT ecosystems become truly pervasive, analysts will become the most in-demand professionals out there.

2. Wearables, but why?

I was speaking to a 20-something professional about new products and he said, “Watches? I don’t get it. My generation is the one that stopped wearing them; we use our phones to tell the time. So why do all these companies think that everyone is suddenly going to buy smartwatches?”

WonderWoof

The variety of wearables businesses plays out like a Mad Lib. I saw wearables for fitness. The elderly. Kids. Babies. Dogs. Cats. You name it and if it moves, then there’s a business that wants to put a sensor on it to collect data.

3. Surf like nobody’s watching.

VR at Intel

But when you’re demoing VR on the CES floor, everyone is. Except at the Oculus booth, which had the longest lines that I saw at the show.

Oculus queue

4. Give me a break.

Walking around the show can get so tiring for some people that they just fall asleep in the middle of the day. Some booths facilitate this.

Taking a break

5. Mirror, mirror on the wall

Some solutions like virtual fitting tech sounds great in theory but the demos show that there’s still a long way to go.

Virtual Fitting Solution

On the other hand, other offerings that focus on a smaller, more specific application work very well.

Panasonic Beauty

6. The Connected Car

Audi TTS

There were more automotive manufacturers at the show than ever before, with a heavy focus on connectivity and automation.

BMW+Samsung

7. Physical to digital to physical

Martha Stewart MakerBot

The transition from the industrial to information age is entering a new phase, where we are digitizing our physical world.

8. 3D TV won’t die

Samsung 8K TV glassless 3D

I was surprised to see that every major manufacturer was showing off some sort of “glass-less” 3D TV. Even in the sweet spot, they seem like an awesome UHD TV got messed up somehow with a blur effect around the edges. 8K, yes. 3D, no.

9. Robots and the uncanny valley

Easily the creepiest thing I saw was Toshiba’s “Communications Android,” which had disclaimers posted around it like “robot does not interact with you.” Even so, when she turned and looked in my direction, I felt a chill run down my spine.

Communication Android

On the other hand, fake robots like Alibaba’s interacted with the crowd and were entertaining.

Alibaba robot

10. Times they are a-changin’

After recent years of backlash, booth babes have almost entirely disappeared from CES, in exchange for slightly more practical robots and people working out. Moreover, people dressed in cartoon costumes seem to have disappeared from the Strip as well. Here are two types of people you probably won’t see at CES 2016:

Two types of CES staffers heading for extinction

When I visited the Intel booth, I looked across the aisle and the old Microsoft space was now occupied by two Chinese manufacturers, Hisense and Changhong. Sign of the times.

Changhong

However, what hasn’t changed is that the floor is primarily for media and spectacle, while business gets done behind the scenes and off the floor.

Samsung Smart Lounge

I’ll be keeping an eye on how these trends of digitization and connectivity play out over the year, with visible checkpoints at MWC, SXSW, and IFA.