CES is always a fascinating mix of giant household names and tiny individual accessory manufacturers in a way that no other show can be. Google’s offerings sit alongside iPhone cases.
We concept and design an experiential space for Ford at the show, so I was lucky enough to attend again this year. Here are my personal highlights in terms of tech trends and experiential trends.
- 5G – It was everywhere. But there wasn’t that much buzz about it, after all, it wasn’t a surprise and it’s not so much 5G itself but the services and experiences it will enable that really cause excitement. One of these is…
- AI – But here again AI is more of an enabling technology than a revolutionary product in its own right. Samsung still had Bixby to promote and Amazon focused on Alexa, very much in home and in car. It was really Google going big on Google Assistant via the Pixel and Home Hub that was the focus of attention. Through a large immersive space (complete with ride!) they demonstrated the many ways that Google Assistant ties into your home life, focusing mainly on seamless movement between home, phone and vehicle. Which leads us neatly into…
- Evolution of the Auto – It’s an interesting time to be involved in automotive tech. Most manufacturers are exploring options around autonomous vehicles, be they motorcycles like BMW or straight up consumer AVs. What is more interesting are the implications for both the interior environment once it moves away from a focus on the driver and the exterior environment as it evolves to deliver the connectivity required for autonomous vehicles to function in the cities of the future. Toyota and Ford were telling stories about the technology and service offerings needed to enable vehicles to understand their position in their environment (CV2X) including connecting multiple vehicles to each other via the cloud and enabling a democratized access to the cloud in rural areas via satellite tech. Kia and Hyundai on the other hand were focused on exploring how vehicle interiors change to more communal spaces, leisure and well-being environments. Even more fun was the massive, autonomous drone taxi from Bell and Uber. It’s not ready for use yet, but will be flying next year, with a pilot!
- Highest of High Def – 8k. Yup you read it right. The resolution of the screens on show from manufacturers like Sony and LG just keeps on getting cleaner and clearer. In addition this year there were high def curved screens and rollable oleds, making consumer tv experiences more beautiful and more practical. Imagine a screen that rolls into your bedstead instead of lowering into it – smaller and thinner, right? Intel was showcasing their volumetric video studio, the largest in the world with 76 cameras. Volumetric video is the result of video capture from multiple cameras
- See through textures – Rather than heavy, opaque screens there was a trend towards see-through dividers, whether that be hung LED or material that allowed for projections. The effect was both beautiful and modern.
Audi used color-changing strips of LED hung around a circular stand space, Canon had screens that also changed color but created different views from inside and out.
- Color me happy – Blue, white, black – these are the colors we associate with tech brands. And the less consumer-facing the tech was at the show, the stronger that was in evidence, for instance at the Qualcomm stand. But for brands that need to differentiate through emotion such as Kodak or Audi color was being skillfully employed to create a feeling of warmth, humanity and fun.
- Immersive Lifestyle – ‘For a person like me’ is a key choice factor in many purchase models and what better way to suggest a product might be just that than to create a lifestyle environment that helps you imagine it in your life. Again the closer the brand to the consumer the more likely they were to use this tactic. LG put many products in detailed, minimalist environments including careful details like lifestyle magazines ‘casually discarded’. We placed Ford’s experience in an urban garden setting. Continental created a house exterior and street feel. Hyundai and Kia created pod-like ‘cars of the future’ for immersive experiences of how the autonomous vehicle might evolve as a shared space.
Google did the best job though and in a completely different way. A large-scale immersive space complete with a theme park ride. Yes you did read that correctly. It was very gentle, but very fun! Animatronics and embedded screens told the story of a day using Google Assistant to pick up a cake for grandma’s birthday. After the ride there was a lifestyle stage where regular presentations were running with a backdrop of consumer desirables giving a familiar and informal feel. And walls framing all the home gadgets that work with Google’s Assistant, plus a couple of cars (Ford) that work with the Assistant. It was truly both delightful and informative. A difficult combo to pull off. The playful immersion and the ability to be real, acknowledging in scripts that it was still a marketing play, were impressive.
These are trends that can be applied at both B2B and B2C events to create a strong brand story and an emotional connection – which pleases all audiences and all demographics.