Response to emerging technologies: Not everything that shines is gold!

While common thinking suggests emerging technologies will follow a steady path to mainstream because they offer something better than the old, that road ahead is not always linear. In fact it’s often riddled with obstacles. For marketers and investors the key is to assess what will get adopted by a number of different cohorts and ‘stick’ in a reasonable period of time. The flip side of this coin is that there may also be brewing negative attitudes and experiences, pushing against adoption. Below are some assessments on today’s buzz technologies and how consumers and marketers are reacting to them.

Streaming adds to our choices… in a good way? New research commissioned by the ARF’s LA Council to Hub Entertainment Research shows that majority of consumers enjoy a broad range of TV content through both traditional and new channels (69%). However, a small but notable portion (12%) also point out that they are overwhelmed by the amount of programming and pathways to get to good content. While use is a good metric, the negative attitudes are also important to track: If consumer attention continues to get dispersed across channels, will TV/video content consumption see a decline?

AR/VR remains niche: WARC‘s global survey of marketers shows that some of the emerging technology fields such as AR/VR will continue to remain niche.

AI continues to be of interest: Artificial intelligence (AI) remains a big focus for brands as they battle to make sense of, and then apply, the many data sources at a marketer’s disposal.

Interest in wearables and blockchain decline: The same survey notes the wave of interest in wearables and facial recognition has declined. And just 13% expect to invest in blockchain in 2020.

Do Your Next Pitch on 360 Video

Immersive experiences communicate deeper and help convert viewers into donors, shows the most recent study from Nielsen on potential VR adopters (paVRr). The study gauged attitudes of 1,000 paVRrs aged 18-54 about 134 charities. The group appeared to be advocates of technology and education in general, with 49% supporting increased technology access and 41% supporting universal primary education. 

To further measure the effectiveness of VR as a donation tool, Nielsen created an experiential setting in its Las Vegas research labs focusing on 14 pieces of charity VR content: about 100 US consumers viewed a 360 video in Samsung Gear, while another 100 viewed a piece of midroll (i.e.,digital ad that appears in the middle of a video) on a tablet as a comparison. The experiment showed that those who viewed the VR content were significantly more likely to recall the brand than those who viewed the midroll (84% vs. 53%). They were also more likely to seek additional info about the brand (48% vs. 37%).  Just as impressively, 48% of those who viewed the 360 video indicated they would donate to the viewed causes afterward vs. 38% of those who watched the midroll. 

The same efficacy in communication can be brought to any ‘pitch’ — social or commercial. It’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone looking to stand out of the crowd while asking for donations for a cause, seeking start up funding, or asking to be a brand’s agency of record.

Seeing is Believing: How VR Can Speed Time to Market For New Products

I am fascinated by VR and related technologies that can speed up time to market. Imagine if your brainstorm sessions were more fruitful, you could demo the ideas more effectively and sell more and quickly. VR programs such as Tilt Brush, Quill, A-Painter give users the tools to illustrate and collaborate on ideas. Powerpoint – move over! These programs help convey ideas in immersive settings and allow for ideas to flourish vs. forcing things into quadrants.

Once you draw up the ideas, then you can illustrate in fine detail with 3D modeling software. My colleagues Harry Brisson and Matt Price recommended I check out Blender 3D and Autodesk, maker of Maya and 3D Studio Max. There is also Unity — an open source platform where majority of current VR/AR apps are created.

Majority of use cases for VR/AR/3D software are in entertainment (e.g., animation), education (e.g., training) and healthcare (e.g., doctors training on surgical procedures). They all underscore how we can create both efficient and higher quality storytelling/learning environments.

What if we were able to quantify how VR enabled groups to come up with more and better ideas, got agencies and clients to see eye to eye and overall just converted better? Any other ideas on which VR features or programs can be used in business?

VR for Women’s Empowerment: KAGIDER (Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey) Luncheon Speech

I had the honor and pleasure of attending a luncheon, hosted by Burcu Mirza, with board members of KAGIDER (Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey) who were in town for meetings at the UN. KAGIDER has an amazing mentorship program where they coach select young, low-income, high-potential women seeking employment and entrepreneurship. Their graduates change their (and their community’s) destiny by either starting their own businesses or becoming successful at firms they join. KAGIDER leaders cited research pointing to millions of young women of employment age in emerging countries, who are neither able to pursue education, nor find employment. KAGIDER’s work is to address this problem. Below is what I shared as my point of view on emerging technology and communication trends, which lead to a dynamic discussion on how these technologies can be used in educating and giving employment skills to young women.

Whatever the technology label might be, we have transcended into post-reality era.
A time when we believe what technology tells us more so than what we see in front of us. For instance, believing our GPS more than the traffic coming towards us on a one-lane street. Or, when children say good bye to Google Home when leaving the apartment.  

There are a few technologies that are driving our post-reality vision as ‘under currents’:
1.       With technologies such as VR and AR, this post-reality vision becomes more immersive and believable. And truth/experiences vary by each viewer not the director or the editor. Before we were told stories by movie directors, news anchors, journalists… Today viewers can look ever which way when immersed in a VR story. We choose the angle in which we’ll take that story – being our own editors.  
2.       Voice activation (e.g., Alexa, Echo, Siri, Adobe’s voice based photo editing technology) humanizes automation, IoT and other connected devices. They induce emotion and forge relations between humans and AI. (Students in a NY State University hacked Alexa to break up with it… some classmates who heard about the break up expressed concern. Post reality experience in this case is heightened by voice and emotion.)

Some companies are taking advantage of this technology in creative ways: eBay is offering VR experience in shops, Google is partnering with BMW and Gap on AR shopping experiences. Adobe is launching voice-based photo editing technology.

VR/AR are poised to generate significant dollars for technology and content makers. Deloitte called it the billion dollar niche in 2016. Some sources, such as Digi-Capital, make bolder predictions, forecasting over 100 billion dollars by 2020, disrupting mobile.

As these emerging technologies edge their way to become mainstream, gender and generational gaps appear. Nielsen study on VR technology (2016) shows a typical early adoption story on VR: Male and younger audiences are more likely to adopt. Women not as likely to be interested or aware! 

VR can fundamentally change the way we communicate in arts and politics. And if women are typically the storytellers, where does that put the female voice in arts, news, commerce and politics? If shopping is gamified in ways that suit men, will women – who are responsible for grand majority of household purchases– buy more?

VR Headsets Go Beyond Gaming As The Latest Sales Tool

Back in December, I had published a marketoon by Greg Kessler on my LinkedIn account, suggesting we would be relying on VR headsets to paint a vision of the future. The idea behind this cartoon is the topic of a New York Times real estate section article this week. ‘A New Dimension in Home Buying’ by Jennifer Miller shows how Hallstead Realty is selling multi-million dollar properties by showing prospects a vision of what these condos will be through VR headsets. It’s about evoking emotions and converting lookers to buyers when in the raw construction phase.

Hallstead’s initiative is not only a clever gimmick, but hope that VR will have real commercial applications beyond gaming. Similar to real estate, VR headsets can be used in retail to show how to dress, cook, or experience a vacation. In auto, it can help drivers test their car in the wilderness, or through narrow streets of old European cities without leaving the dealer’s showroom. If done right, VR stories can help propel new authors to best seller status by showing a preview of what those 300 pages hold.

As companies tie increasing profits to VR marketing, this type of storytelling will become mainstream (and with hopefully more attractive headsets)