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Three things digital marketers should take away from CES 2016

3D printing, virtual reality, autonomous cars, huge TVs, smart products, connected home, wearables – some things don’t change at CES. Many of these developments provide stepping-stones to greater things, but some mature in their own right.

Looking at what was on display this year, there are three areas that are going to be important for the marketing industry in 2016: sensors and data, technology products and platforms, and content.

1. Sensors and Data

Sensoria Fitness was at CES last year demonstrating smart socks that would help runners with their technique. This year it was back with its Sensoria Athlete 2020 biometric suit (main picture), providing “actionable real-time feedback from biometrics”. It has also partnered with Renault Sport to produce an app that integrates data from cars fitted with the Renault Sport Monitor with biometric data from special editions of the Sensoria smart fitness t-shirt.

With products and platforms providing access to more data than ever before, agencies should be promoting such partnerships to their clients in order to develop valuable experiences for their customers.

Global leader in augmentative and alternative communication Tobii Dynavox demonstrated some pretty impressive eye tracking technology. One of the applications it showed was gaming, but there were plenty of others from retail, to website navigation, to testing and analytics. The implications are interesting. Whether around accessibility or content navigation, this type of input mechanism makes for an entirely new way to design user interfaces.

In the connected retail space Cambridge Consultants’ ZipLine system aims to reduce in-store queuing time for customers. The system uses infrared sensors and software algorithms to help shoppers find the shortest line to pay via an app or in-store dashboard.

In a world where online purchases are almost instant with no need to wait in line at all, shoppers’ expectations are high and brands need to differentiate their physical retail experience to remain relevant. Customers will no longer tolerate a difficult shopping experience.

2. Technology Products and Platforms

3D printing is definitely maturing. In addition to existing filament-based printing technology, companies like FormLabs are using stereolithography techniques as an alternative, creating a much more advanced desktop 3D printer. Whether you’re prototyping, or producing custom parts for an installation or experiential event, there are now commercially viable products that provide increased resolution, reliability, and quality.

There were also some interesting educational tech products on display. For example, Lego and Meccano both had connected robot kits, with many smaller players showcasing similar product developments. In the family and health sectors there were monitoring systems for babies and children. Withings continues to build its line of connected products with Thermo, a connected temporal thermometer.

The next generation of consumers will have been brought up in a world where not only are they exposed to connected products in the home, but their toys and recreation activities will involve building and connecting interactive devices. These consumers will have high expectations, and brands that fail to meet these expectations will not be able to compete.

In the automotive sector, Audi showcased a concept dashboard made up of several OLED touchscreens with haptic feedback, and a tablet entertainment system in the rear seats using gesture-based controls. These controls allow a user to initiate navigation by raising a hand palm outwards, and then navigate through its functions with intuitive gestures without needing to touch the hardware at all.

Additionally, SoundHound and NVIDIA announced a partnership to develop natural language car controls. Speech recognition with natural language is increasingly viable, providing the opportunity to design entirely new interfaces for devices, apps, and websites.

Websites and apps currently provide some of the primary touch points between brands and their consumers, so an entirely new interface like natural language provides brands with an incredible opportunity to reshape the way that they communicate with their customers. Agencies need to be developing experiences that optimise for these new interfaces, this year.

3. Content production

Drones are now available at a lower price point with longer battery life, and better navigation functions. With improved GPS capability and auto-follow as standard, drones can be a cost-effective way to quickly develop content that would have been impractical in the past. Just keep an eye on the Federal Aviation Association regulations to make sure you’re staying within the law.

Predictably, VR was everywhere. Inexpensive 360-degree camera equipment for producing VR content is now emerging. This will open up opportunities for agencies and individuals alike to easily produce short-form VR video content and share it socially. With products like the portable Vuze 360-degree camera launching at under $1000, we will soon see an explosion of user generated video VR content.

360-degree videos are already available through Facebook and YouTube, and products like Google Cardboard mean that users don’t need to buy expensive high-end hardware to experience this content. People will start to share short VR video clips in the same way that they currently share video clips taken on their phones, providing new opportunities for brands to connect with their customers.

Overall, there are three things digital marketers should take away from CES this year:

We should be considering how we can leverage inexpensive short form VR content to provide users with valuable experiences.

With gesture-based input, eye tracking, and accurate natural language input, we need to understand how we’re going to develop entirely new user interfaces.

And finally, we need to ensure that the solutions that we develop for our own companies and clients are innovative enough to engage the next generation of technology natives.

Christopher Marsh is director of technology at AKQA