by Lydia Lee
January 20th, 2016

At the start of 2016, I had the chance to travel from Shanghai to Las Vegas to attend CES (Consumer Electronics Show).  While I have been following CES for many years, this year is actually my very first time attending the show, and boy, what a surreal experience — to actually see new technological wonders, with an Elvis-look-alike standing next to me during the demo…. I find myself smiling and agreeing with fellow attendees –  “Only at CES, only in Vegas.”

After a hectic but amazing few days at the worlds biggest consumer electronics show, I’d like to share my observations on how these technological advances are impacting communicators, and how we can embrace how it will revolutionise the ways audiences consume information.

1.     Convergence is Power
My biggest take-away from this year’s CES is seeing the power of convergence coming into full force.  The mashing of two, three or even four different technologies, unleashes inspiring new solutions and experiences thru convergence.  At CES, I saw data, and devices come together through connectivity to help users make better decisions.

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Take the connected car for example, one of the major attractions at this year at CES.  Countless amounts of data being captured from the drivers’ daily maneuverings are then analysed and reported back so the driver can make informed decisions, better judgment calls,  and hopefully, avoid accidents.

Or take the smart refrigerator, where the front door panel not only acts as information soure, where one can search for recipes and even watch relevant cooking techniques, it can also serve as an online ordering form so that food and produce can be replenished.

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Even more powerfully, and this brings IoT (internet of things) into full force, thru micro-chips and scanners, the fridge can send notifications to the user when certain produce is close to expiration date, and needs immediate consumption. It can even tell us how much of its nutritional value has been diminished!

This can only be done when different technologies converge, transmitting information that is relevant to the user.  Users can make better decisions when data and device come together through connectivity and analytics.

As a communicator, the messages and stories we create, may one day be heard on “talking refrigerators” and automobiles.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?

2.     Virtual Reality now very real
Virtual reality (VR) is the must-try technology at this year’s CES.  Although the hardware is already there and is ready, the lack of good, solid, sophisticated content is hampering the experience.  Nevertheless, what VR does, along with more powerful cameras and other up-and-coming visual devices, is allow the user to film from angles that were once impossible or difficult, thus bringing the visual experience to a whole new level.  And Google’s cardboard 3D glasses that box-in a mobile phone, allows anyone with a cell phone to experience VR anytime by downloading the right content format.

In the near future, VR content will be considering a must, where the visual experience is coupled with the engagement experience, thus adding a stronger impression because there is participation on the part of the audience.  This new perspective will open more creativity and pushing boundaries of possibilities of the mind and imagination.

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As communicators, we need to start thinking both visually and in 360-degrees. Not tomorrow, but today.

3.     Asia brands’ presence grows strong
At the Las Vegas convention centre, it was great to see that some of the most prominent booths were from Asian brands.  There were a mix of existing and new brands that took center stage, and I think emerging brands can really learn a thing or two from how the big guys choose to tell their stories.

The more successful exhibits – in terms of foot traffic and resulting buzz – had truly interactive displays. Panasonic, for example, brought all its key B2C and B2B components, yet created interactive experiences that told a story – that Panasonic knows technology and life.  Its magic mirror – a mirror that can analyse skin condition, coupled with make-up suggestions and instructions – might be a stylist’s worst nightmare, yet every girl’s best pal!

Sony’s booth – where it not only showed the future of consumer electronics, it also brought analog back into the digital world by mashing the two audio experiences – demonstrated the “new” with some help from the “old”.

Home entertainment brands were focused on showing the latest 4K technologies by mounting massive 360-degree screens that explode your senses.

In contrast, some brands were more focused on purely displaying their hardware and technology or partnership, and less in showcasing the experience that these devices bring, and I think that less dynamic exhibition style affected audience engagement, and how effectively those brands got their story across.

As a communicator who works to help Asian technology brands go global, the takeaway from this years Show is how important it is to build a narrative as part of your exhibition, and being interactive, is one of the most effective ways to get noticed at CES, and beyond.

In summary, the 2016 CES was both mind-blowing and inspiring.  I look forward to the 2017 show to see what will challenge our imagination next.

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