More than hype:

Tech trends from CES 2022 that are here to stay.


More than hype:

Authors: OBE Creative and Technology Team Members - Grace Chee, Jonathan Zapata, Katie Schray, Zak Vono

Our Creative and Technology teams attended the virtual CES 2022 this January, the “global stage of innovation.” Now, a few months into the year, we’re ready to share the four trends we think are here to stay and that are making their way into our strategic solutions and work.

1. Shop ‘til you drop, version 3.0

Omnichannel retail has been a key trend for the past few years—now we’re seeing it extend toward new platforms and gain more traction. Today’s retail experiences are ubiquitous—available anytime, anywhere, and on any device, with growing integration across platforms into seamless ecosystems. Three key components of this are:

1. The Metaverse, as an increasingly popular way to craft a full brand world.
2. NFTs, as a permanent connection to loyal customers.
3. Augmented Reality + Artificial Intelligence, as virtual and in-store shopping assistants for a personalized experience.

In Action:
For clients such as Nike, we explore creating strategic retail-based solutions by asking (and answering) ourselves...

  • Are there ways to integrate our client’s various channels into the experience? We could build IRL components that interact with people’s avatars inside NIKELAND.

  • How can digital experiences be used to create a prolonged connection to brands that reward loyal customers? This could be an NFT for a limited-edition shoe that grants the receiving fan access to an athlete.

  • As customers come to expect more customization in their brand interactions, can our experiences be personalized to the individual using AI/AR? We could use AI to generate Custom Nike By You designs, as it learns about your personality from social media posts.

2. Reality gets a remix

Consumer virtual reality (VR) headsets have hit a tipping point of affordability, accessibility, and portability. The Oculus Quest 2, a completely standalone platform with its own ecosystem of gaming, enterprise, and social VR, costs less than a gaming console. Meanwhile, mobile device tech (see sensors, below) has allowed augmented reality (AR) to experience an even bigger boom. AR applications have been deployed at scale by some of the biggest consumer brands out there, like Target, Home Depot and Ikea, and AR experiences are now considered table stakes in social campaigns. Far from the dorky form factor of Google Glass, stylish (or nearly so) smart glasses are now available from Ray-Ban, Bose, Razer, and Vue. In other words, when it comes to experiential, there’s no longer a separation between the physical and the digital.

In Action:
VR and AR have moved beyond the niche. Consider how these technologies can meaningfully transform experiences.

  • Evolve Hackathons (sprint-like collaboration to design and create software) into virtual reality sessions, where ideas turn into prototypes. 3D virtual space is an obvious advantage, but AR can also be used to collaborate in a unique manner.

  • Upgrade networking sessions by giving each participant a heads-up display inside AR glasses, allowing for a quick summary of the other participant: Name, Title, Company, etc.

  • Transform “event wayfinding” efficient and accessible, providing real-time information.

3. Sensors go turn-key

There is nothing unusual about wiring sensors into an experiential footprint. But anyone who has ever waved vainly at a motion sensor or waited for a lagging photo-op knows that this tech can be fiddly, expensive, and niche. The latest generation of sensors, often built to suit the demands of facility managers with one-eye-on-Covid, are now plug-and-play, easily installed and require low-to-no coding—instantly generating the kind of advanced analytics that experiential designers dream of. Moreover, advances in wearable tech, biochemical sensors, LiDAR, and emotion-detecting machine vision have created an environment where almost any kind of input can be gathered in an activation, at relatively low cost.

In Action:
The advances in turn-key sensor tech matter in three big ways for us as experiential marketers:

  • Health and Safety: an obvious first use, as brands strive to create safe, reassuring experiences. From capacity monitoring to air quality and ventilation measurement, many of the latest sensors are designed to help facilitate a covid-safe environment. They can also be used to control access to an area, provide touchless interaction with digital experiences, and provide early warnings if anything is going wrong.

  • Invisible KPIs: experiential performance indicators are notoriously tricky, often relying on hand-counting, surveys and anecdotes. However, a smart environment can now give us real-time heatmaps that show how and where attendees spent their time, and machine vision can even tell us what they thought of it—provided we get permission first (of course).

  • Responsive Environments: the real fun is in how sensors can create an experiential environment that changes and responds, in real time, to the people moving through it. Imagine a wellness space that adjusts to your stress level, thanks to a cortisol sensor on your wristband. A music experience that builds in relation to the heartbeats of those inside it. Entire sections of an activation could expand or contract based on real-time attendance data, or rooms could open only when the mood is literally right.

4. The Quest for Sustainability

The tech sector is responsible for up to 3% of ALL global emissions—creating a hot topic for conversation at CES. Much of the tech was centered around corporate responsibility—companies committing to shifting to sustainable power sources, energy use or streamlined production processes. Many brands pledged carbon neutrality by 2030 and introduced environmentally friendly products.

While switching to a solar remote or mouse made of plastic from the ocean may seem like a small step, companies are trying to leverage the impact of taking micro-action with these more “mundane” technologies.

In Action:
We believe that sustainability should always be a goal and we implement initiatives that make an impact.

  • Use eco-friendly ink and switch from plastic to compostable, sustainable or biomaterials for packaging, food and beverage, swag, branding and more.

  • Choose sustainable finishes that are recyclable or can serve multiple purposes and be reused.

  • Use local artisans and regionally harvested materials.

  • Shift to digital branding and use e-ink displays that utilize less power.

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