Much to my parents’ disdain, my favourite city to visit is Las Vegas. I had my stag do/bachelor party there, ran the marathon, have had cultural trips, sporting trips, gambling trips, golf trips and, for the last five years, I have started my working year there at CES.
Even on a quiet day, Vegas is a place of excess. A brash, loud, bright, city where there is innovation at every turn – whether commercial VR experiences, self-driving cars, ridiculous light displays, the most complex show stages or 3D slot machines (where losing your money is actually a pleasure).
And CES, the world’s largest trade show which is no longer allowed to be called the Consumer Electronics Show because it is so much more than that, it’s Vegas on steroids. The city with the most hotel rooms in the world becomes full, swollen with throngs of entrepreneurs, marketers, journalists and innovators all enjoying an orgy of tech. Autonomous vehicles are such a big deal now that the Detroit Auto Show has moved itself to the summer to no longer clash. The big companies spend millions on elaborate stands that have the punters queuing round the block to try the latest headset or see the smart home of the future while many smaller companies try to break through the noise with guerilla marketing campaigns swarming the streets promoting the latest app or try and explain why their smart toothbrush/baseball bat/glasses/VR shoes are going to change your world.
The last four years I had been at CES promoting the work of British innovators in my role as a diplomat. This year I was there representing Laduma – and with our Liverpool roots – actually part of the largest British delegation ever to attend.
And I took to the #DigitalHollywood stage for a panel discussion on immersive tech in branding and marketing alongside the likes of Google, NextVR (who do the live NBA VR broadcasts) and hologram company VNTANA. It was my first presentation as Laduma’s President and it was great to be talking about how Virtual and Augmented Reality and other immersive technologies can enhance storytelling and emotional connections for brands (rather than just talking about Brexit, as was my last job).
The fascinating thing about our industry is how adoption of our technologies is increasing all the time and creating new and exciting opportunities. Brands are more able to reach consumers through clever AR plays, VR experiences are becoming cheaper and more impressive, holograms and haptics are becoming more mainstream and the industry is full of optimism for the year ahead.
Although 2018 saw some seismic activity – the end of Blippar, Imax pulling out of VR – if CES is anything to judge by, no one is worried that the world of immersive tech isn’t going to continue to change the way we connect/market/consume entertainment/learn/exercise/travel at great pace.
Walking the floors of CES is like watching multiple episodes of Black Mirror. And even though I don’t need a laundry-folding robot and I am a little frightened of Hyundai’s walking car, there was plenty that was impressive and exciting.
Although predicting which of these cutting edge products and innovations will go mainstream is as much a gamble as playing the Ghostbusters 4D slots…