Personalization, connectivity, and instant gratification were the name of the game at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year. What the show lacked in grand technological reveals, it made up for in improvements – namely in virtual and augmented reality, “smart” products, and general usability.
Virtual and augmented reality
If you didn’t have VR goggles or your product wasn’t integrated with VR at CES 2017, you might as well not have existed. That being said, there was quite a bit of noise in this category. The real standouts were not the 360-degree goggles, but glasses and applications that enhance reality, rather than creating it. Visteon, an automotive electronics supplier, unveiled an augmented reality technology for windshields – these enhanced windshields would provide information like navigation changes and traffic updates right on the road, so drivers don’t have to look down at a phone or GPS device. Sony demonstrated an augmented reality concept by giving attendees a picture book while having the glasses on – characters came to life on the pages, but attendees were still aware of and interacting with the world around them. This technology is also useful when applied to conference attendees en masse. Imagine not having to worry about networking and connecting with a conference app, but rather seeing information in real time right before your eyes. Or sending session feedback based on where you are focusing your attention making meeting ROI collection easy and real-time. Much like the game Pokémon Go caused players to flock to Pokémon “gyms,” augmented reality could also be a useful tool in getting your attendees to go to a certain session or sponsor locations and actively engaging in some way.
Convenience and connectivity
The internet of things is integrating everything. In the ever-growing IOT world that is evolving people expect their devices to communicate seamlessly with increasingly complex systems, or historically analog ones like your refrigerator. Several companies are making strides in this field, with a noticeable jump forward for automotive companies with first integrations of smart voice services like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant being revealed. These voice services aren’t just audible commands for your car – they’re aides that integrate with all your devices and communicate without you having to prompt them. Imagine asking your car for directions to the best pizza place – then, when you park a few blocks away, your phone already has walking directions for you. A standout in device integration that we noticed this year is the company Sevenhugs and their truly universal remote. This small device has a touchscreen interface and immediately recognizes what you are pointing it at. The remote can be used for lights, television, temperature, and even ride-sharing apps – if you point it at the door, you can order an Uber. This device integration is a harbinger of how we will interact with our gadgets in the future. That is to say, naturally and intuitively. From a brand experience perspective, the internet of things can lead to more attendee interaction and event data than ever. With passive tracking technology in attendees’ phones, planners will be able to tell in real time who actually showed up, what sessions they went to, and where they lingered. Digitally integrated buildings and banquet ware will be able to tell you when the coffee is running low, when the building is too hot, or when unwelcome visitors try to get into a secured area. The more data gathered through our connected devices at events, the more we can find the value – or not – of the keynote speakers, the transportation partners, or the structure of the event itself.
Good design and subtle technology
Showing off your technology is so two years ago – high-tech gear is now so commonplace that it doesn’t need to be flashy or stand out. In fact, the more subtle and seamless your technology is with your everyday life, the better. CES 2017 saw an influx of beautifully-designed products that act “smart” without showing it. Notable in this field were hybrid smart watches – a new class of the smart watch designed for those who still want to wear a watch with a traditional face, but need the convenience of step-tracking and call and text notifications. Volkswagen, aside from its impressive concept cars at the show, utilized attendees’ phones at check-in stations throughout their show floor. One tap of a phone to a computer interface told the attendant your name and what you were looking for in the blink of an eye, and then sent relevant information about the cars back to your phone. No Bluetooth or RFID-tapping needing. These trends mirror the experience that attendees want at events, large and small. We expect our objects to work for us passively at all times and actively when we need them. In the very near future it will be commonplace for the traditional conference badge or expo RFID bracelet to be replaced by the phone you already have and a set of augmented reality glasses, allowing for more experiences spent in the moment and not shuffling through a series of hand outs to find where to go next and how to rate that last session.
In our years of working with brands across the country and across the world, we’ve learned that integrating cutting-edge technology is one of the best ways to wow attendees. The tech of today adds to the attendee experience without adding to their already large arsenal of gadgets. Imagine attending a conference or brand summit with no business cards to fumble with and no notepad to have to keep track of – the tech you will have is making LinkedIn connections and pushing video of the top speakers directly to your email, and your Augmented Reality glasses ensure you know where you’re going and who you’re talking to. Attendees can focus on making the connections without keeping track of agendas and tote bags. Rather than new technology eliminating human interactions, it will serve to strengthen our relationships, making brands even more personal and relevant than ever.