VB: 5 Technologies You Should Watch For at CES 2016

I was recently asked by Venture Beat to provide insight into 5 potential technologies that I would be excited to see at CES 2016.

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The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in just a few weeks, and we marketers will get a glimpse of new technologies that will impact how we talk to our audiences.

Here are 5 trend territories to keep an eye on at this year’s expo:

1. Emotive robotics

Emotive robotics is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. Last year, single function robots were hot items from the show, but with advancements in deep learning capabilities, we’re on the cusp of emotive robotics entering the home in 2016.

An example of an emotive robot is Jibo, praised as the first “family robot.” Jibo and other emotive robots could aggregate Internet of Things (IOT) sensors and serve as the central nervous system of the home.

jibo

For digital marketers, emotive robotics opens up new possibilities for delivering highly contextual content and could serve as an access point into IoT-based behavioral data. The key to the concept of emotive robotics is its ability to take a consumer’s emotional response into consideration, making consumer interactions with these devices more positive and personal.

2. Gesture-based interfaces

Wearables of all types were crowd pleasers at the 2015 CES, but to date most wearables have primarily served as passive data collection devices. This year, the progression of gesture-based interfaces is one to watch.

At CES 2015, Logbar’s Gesture control ring drew large crowds. The simplicity of Ring and its ability to interface with an IoT-powered smart home is one example of a gesture-based interface.

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Gesture-based interfaces could provide a fun and engaging way for marketers to connect physical and digital worlds. Interfaces like Logbar’s Ring, could allow consumer electronics companies to create customizable experiences for their customers leveraging non-touch gesture-based motions.  For example, a consumer could interact with their TV, stereo, or coffee machine without ever having to touch a device.

I’m looking forward to new gesture control prototypes at CES 2016 and uncovering the marketing potential for brands.

3. Flexible displays

Flexible displays have always held a certain sci-fi allure. Having a digital display that can be bent, rolled, and shaped into many different form factors has a lot of marketing appeal.

We’re beginning to see flexible displays integrated into the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG’s G Flex smartphones and we’ve seen various standalone prototypes over the years.

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Thinking ahead, this type of display could revolutionize shopper marketing, as consumer brands could integrate flexible displays directly into clothing and other products, reducing consumer dependencies on mobile devices.

4. Virtual reality

On a recent earnings call, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called Virtual Reality (VR) the next evolution of computing. We’ve seen experiential exploration of VR at past CES expos, and now we’re on the verge of VR hardware being readily available for early adopters.

Recently, there’s been acceleration around enabling 360 video — a form of VR — for the masses.  For example, you can now see 360 mobile video in your mobile Facebook newsfeed, and Google’s cardboard camera app supports the capture of 360-degree video and sound.

Recent campaigns such as the New York Times Google Cardboard experiment and GoPro’s deep dive into 360 video are testing out new and compelling experiences for consumers. However, truly immersive VR experiences require higher-end headsets, which create a sense of total immersion.

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For example, companies can co-create content to embed their products in immersive experiences that align with their brand. With the Olympics coming in 2016, we can expect brands to leverage virtual reality to let consumers immerse themselves in the event.

I’ll be looking for new flavors of Facebook’s Oculus experience from other VR suppliers. I’ll also be looking for systems such as Sixense’s STEM System, which provides motion controls, haptic feedback, and additional spatial awareness in VR to create a full-body controlled experience.

5. Holographic computing

Holographic computing, sometimes called mixed reality, is a form of augmented reality (AR) that lets users spatially interact with digital overlays (holograms) that appear in the world around them.

A recent forecast from Citi analysts highlighted the future of the VR/AR industry, and their view is that AR technologies will likely disrupt major digital markets. Many organizations are exploring mixed reality solutions. One that has garnered a lot of attention is Microsoft, with its Hololens. Hololens produces interactive holograms that augment the existing physical world.

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The potential application for brand marketers is incredibly exciting, as AR represents a blank canvas against the physical world, giving brands an opportunity to engage with consumers in their everyday environments like at work or in the home. For example, a company could leverage AR in the home by sponsoring a grocery list, which appears on a user’s fridge and offers product recommendations when they are running out of a grocery item.

What to take away from the show floor

The five areas I’ve highlighted here represent the progression I’m hoping to see at CES. Will they all be represented? I’m excited to find out. What marketers should be looking for on the show floor are connected devices that have the potential to drastically shift consumer behavior and the way consumers and brands interact. Shifts in entertainment greatly impact marketers, and as a result data, content, and channels will all have a new role to play. Gaining insight into the dynamic shifts in how consumers connect will be key in 2016. CES should shed light on what may be possible in the years ahead.

If you happen to spot any of these items on the expo floor, tweet a pic and tag it with #CESevolved.

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iMedia Breakthrough Summit 2015

Innovation is critical to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment. This is one of the reasons I support the iMedia Breakthrough Summit each year.

For the past few years I have served as an advisory member for the summit. As a marketing technologist, I love it when marketing and technology come together to discuss emerging technology and how it can enable new forms of value creation.

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This year, I also took the stage with Jeff Donaldson of GameStop. Jeff was the CIO for 14 years and is currently leading GameStop’s innovation practice.

The GameStop Technology Institute is responsible for enabling innovation within this Fortune 500 organization. This presents unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to integrating emerging technology into a heavily linear organization.

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We discussed a number of topics from Jeff’s philosophy and approach to innovation to team structure and how he leverages 3rd parties to the role innovation plays when partnering with the marketing organization.

Jeff outlined his approach to innovation which was captured by the iMedia team during our discussion. Below is an excerpt from the session.

Tom iMedia 7

Measurement
The first step is ensuring that everyone in your organization is aligned and on the same page when it comes to measurement. Only when important factors are identified can a strategy be put into action for collecting data and analyzing it.

Equalized channels
The next step is identifying what data you need to collect to drive that measurement and implementing it through equalized channels.

Co-creation
Next, consider the ability to bring in as many people as possible to work with you to get your ideas realized, which include more than just your innovation team. When it comes to the creation of ideas, your employees and your customers can both get involved and contribute.

Build innovation platform
Then comes the step of creating the platform where your innovation can live. Building this platform for innovation also includes test markets to work through the kinks of your ideas.

Collaboration
Finally, collaboration is key to success. Don’t be afraid to incorporate all of your teams (finance, marketing, IT, and executives) into your plans and ideas for innovation.

Multiple factors come into play when outlining the ideal approach to innovation within an existing organization. The role of data, understanding which 3rd parties will align with the existing team structure, how to democratize the process of innovation and what factors will lead an emerging technology into becoming a fully integrated asset to further support marketing efforts all must be considered.

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The key is having the right partner that understands your business, has relationships with the right 3rd parties, (start-ups, technology partners and platforms) has resources with relevant domain knowledge to extend your team and understands how to bridge the gap between emerging technology and full integration into the existing organization.

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Twitter Moments Analysis

Recently, I published a post outlining the launch of Project Lightning which became Twitter Moments. This was a major launch for social/digital marketers as it extends the ability to create contextually relevant content series on Twitter.

Below is my initial analysis that explores the user experience, competitive analysis and comparison to SnapChat’s Live Stories as well as explores the potential of sequential storytelling for brand marketers.

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Apps Are the Future of TV

Apps are the future of TV, or so Apple claims during today’s Apple event.  The features include a glass touch remote, siri, great content and apps that set the stage for the new Apple TV experience but what does this mean for marketers?

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With Apple claiming that the future of television is apps, this opens the door to revitalize their iAd business. The foundation for the rise of iAd has been set in motion. iAd is enhancing targeting capabilities, partnering with 3rd party ad tech firms and building out their programmatic capabilities.

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With Apple TV becoming the central hub and aggregation point of entertainment across streaming services, This opens opportunities to connect with more audiences and map context and consumption behaviors and reduces the friction to find content across services. 

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With tvOS at the foundation, apple is providing the tools for developers to create immersive experiences for the Apple TV. This expands beyond streaming entertainment and brings iOS and console games to the Apple TV.

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This provides yet another opportunity to create contextually relevant advertising solutions across mac OS platforms and I am excited to test the new iAd solutions for tvOS when they are made available.  

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Twitter’s New Visual Tools Debuted at the VMA’s

I was recently asked by ClickZ about the recent debut of Twitter’s Visual Editing Tool the debuted during MTV’s Video Music Awards.

Clickz: Twitter is testing new editing tools to give its users a lot more creativity in the photo and video department soon. According to numerous images posted by Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and other popstars at MTV’s VMA awards show this weekend, it looks like users might soon be able to add stickers, doodles, text and more to photos and short video clips. What does this mean for Twitter?

Tom Edwards: This move by Twitter makes a lot of sense, especially for millennial users who have grown accustomed to customizing their messages with ephemeral social platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The evolution from text speak to visual language is key for Twitter to capitalize upon to remain relevant especially considering that globally, messaging applications are the primary engagement drivers. 

Twitter has taken steps to amp up their approach to visually contextual content with custom emoji and hashflags. By incorporating more options for it’s users to extend their personalities through stickers and doodles they are providing additional options for users to expand their ability to tell a visual story and continue to expand context beyond 140 characters. 

 

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Instagram Strategy and the Path to Purchase

From a strategy perspective, Instagram is one of the more misunderstood social platforms when it comes to outlining it’s role and business impact along the path to purchase.

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Below is a breakdown of three Instagram use cases that outline various levers that can influence user behavior that can ultimately lead to awareness, advocacy and offline conversion.

Instagram’s numbers are impressive. 300 Million active users, 30 billion photos shared per day, 2.5 billion interactions per day as well as support for iOS, Android and web presence make it an ideal consumer engagement channel.

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Instagram Session at F8

When crafting an Instagram brand strategy, I always start by mapping the objectives and goals of the brand against the various use cases and scenarios outlined below.

Depending on the desire of the brand marketer, it is possible to execute each of these as stand alone elements, but the greatest impact can be achieved by integrating multiple use cases.

Typically, I map Instagram strategic initiatives into three primary use cases: Brand Channel, Cooperative Content and Direct Response.

1 – COMMUNITY FIRST = BRAND CHANNEL – Some marketers desire to have a robust branded Instagram presence to round out their social channel ecosystem.GameStop, Inc. Instagram photos
1.1 – Why have an Instagram brand channel?
Over the past few years, Instagram marketing strategy has been approached in a very similar manner to other social platforms that came before it. This included extending the persona of the brand, fostering transparency and extending their visual storytelling efforts.

An Instragram brand channel can serve as a brand anchor on the platform, engagement driver and point of personification for the brand and connection with the Instagram community. But it is important to understand there are limitations to this approach if a brand has any desire beyond awareness and engagement.

1.2 – Can I extend organic reach through engagement? When I met with the Instagram team at F8, Instagram has what’s called a deterministic newsfeed. This means that all content that you post will be seen by your followers. The issue is that unlike Facebook’s previous algorithm that rewarded additional reach to your followers and beyond for interaction, Instagram engagement does not equal additional organic reach.

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They reiterated that Instagram brand channels should NOT be treated as distribution platform for brands. Likes, follows and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of ReGram (Think ReTweet) functionality limits branded content sharing.

1.3 – What does it do for my business? It is important to understand the parameters and set client expectations accordingly about what to expect if a brand channel is the only use case that is realized. Understanding that organic reach is limited to existing audience, a brand channel strategy alone would simply garner awareness and engagement.

1.4 – Conclusion (Awareness & Engagement) – If your brand has a robust social strategy that includes visual storytelling  and is primarily focused on awareness and engagement as core drivers and are okay without having additional reach through engagement then a branded channel is right for you

2 – INSPIRE CREATIVITY = COOPERATIVE CONTENT In a recent meeting with the Instagram team, they expressed that the true power of the platform is the creator community.

For those marketers looking to move beyond awareness and engagement, it is possible to foster intent while maintaining the authenticity and connection with Instagram’s community through curation based use cases.

For most product based businesses, they expressed the importance of driving behavior and using the content created by users tied to hashtags as a cross-platform advocacy play.

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This is an example from Sephora, that takes user created content and aligns it with the products that created the look to create contextual alignment between the brand and consumer.

2.1 – CALL FOR COOPERATION – The call for cooperation is the key element to maximize a UGC curation strategy. The key is to specifiy the behavior that is expected, provide a relevant hashtag and actively deliver the call to action.

The call to action can manifest itself in many forms. It can be tied to promotional activations that drive a specific behavior, such as the ATT #BeTheFan promotion.

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Or it can come in the form of leveraging influencers to drive the call to action to create content on behalf of the brand.

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The call to action and galvanizing Instagram’s creator community is the first step in curating cooperative content.

2.2 – App Centric Approach
– Many brands leverage Instagram primarily through the lens of the consumer and the native filters of the app. For marketers that are looking for more brand equity out of user created content and have a strong branded application install base, it is possible to create custom filters through the brands native app and tie the share into the Instagram share stream via an API.

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Tiffany’s integrated custom black and white, peach and Tiffany blue into a native app experience and then curated the best images as a part of their True Love in Pictures campaign.

2.3Choose the Right MomentsIt is important to have an asset management system that allows you to have a flexible workflow to review submissions, facilitate rights management and connect pathways to cross-platform publishing of the content.

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One of my go-to partners in this regard has been Chute.

2.3 – Display for Impact – Once you have aligned with your community about a call to action, curated images or videos natively or through a 3rd party application and have worked through rights and asset management, it is now time to display the cooperatively created content for impact.

WestElm

This is an example from WestElm that highlights professional and user created Instagram content into their product pages.

Think Geek

Here is an example from ThinkGeek that highlights consumers with products in action.

2.3 – What does this mean for my business? Associating user generated content with products has shown a direct correlation to sales lift according to a recent IPSOS study.

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For brands that are focused on leveraging earned media to create advocacy and impact “intent” (middle of the purchase funnel) a cooperative content curation strategy may be the right choice.

2.6 – Conclusion – For certain brand marketers the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors and create a relationship with passionate fans to showcase their view of the brand as the core assets to fuel cross-platform branded experiences and display for impact.

3 – SIMPLICITY MATTERS = DIRECT RESPONSE – What we have seen over the past 6 months is a fundamental shift in social platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and now Instagram towards better supporting offline conversion through direct response ad types.

Instagram Targeting

From an investor perspective, awareness and engagement are not always seen as the most viable way to invest dollars that drive tangible business impact. This is one of the primary reasons that Twitters CEO stepped down as they did not have a viable way to measure true impact of spend.

3.1 – Why Paid Advertising on Instagram? Instagram’s paid advertising offerings have evolved significantly over the past year  and we as marketers are starting to see the influence that the Facebook acquisition has had on the platform.

Recent announcements highlighted advanced targeting will be coming soon to the Instagram ad products. In partnership with parent company Facebook, Instagram’s ad products will allow for greater specificity to deliver a contextually relevant message that may drive a direct response from the consumer.

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3.2 – What does it do for my business? With improved targeting capabilities thanks to Facebook and now an option launching this fall to support direct response call to actions such as shop now, install now, sign up, learn more, we see an increased emphasis on driving a user to action. One element that has been missing from Instagram.

Also, the news that an Instagram ads API will be available this fall to support both small and large organizations is important news for those marketers that are not spending millions of dollars on the Facebook ad platform.

3.3 – Conclusion – Instagram’s ad products are continuing to evolve and the addition of direct response units is a very welcome addition. Initial signals are positive, but it will be important to see what changes a more comprehensive ad product suite will have on a platform that has prided itself on simplicity and community.

As you can see, there are various strategic use cases that can drive different outcomes depending on your objectives. Understanding when to activate one vs. the other, or multiple elements simultaneously is key to fully maximizing the highly creative and engaged Instagram audience.

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NFL and Yahoo Partner for Global Live Stream

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the new partnership between the NFL & Yahoo and their attempt to deliver the first-ever live streamed NFL game this fall.

NFL + Yahoo Edit

(Mobile Marketer) What does this partnership say about the importance of reaching sports fans on mobile?


The NFL understands that mobile is the first screen, especially for younger fans, and they are creating new partnerships that will extend the reach of their product and deliver entertainment across all device types.

(Mobile Marketer) What impact could this move have on the number of folks who now just watch Internet-based TV, rather than cable?

We are seeing a fundamental shift in behavior. Cord cutting over-indexes among millennials yet sports programming is still a key interest area. Having an option to experience NFL programming live in real-time as well as free is a compelling value proposition.

(Mobile Marketer) Given that until now, most streaming TV activity has focused on special events, how might it affect the future of mobile and sports broadcasts?

This is a great opportunity for the NFL and Yahoo to test and optimize future experiences to gauge the interest and consumption across device types. This can help inform the media strategy for future events and where to invest dollars that will drive the most impact.

(Mobile Marketer) If fans take to the idea of watching football on mobile both at home and abroad, what could the implications be for traditional broadcasters, whose advertising revenue has already taken a dive thanks to the rise of streaming video?

The consumer is now in control of their entertainment choices and are not as locked in to traditional broadcasts as they once were. Organizations such as the NFL that create and test new partnerships and distribution points capitalizing on where consumers are and they will have the ability to further align contextual online behaviors to further enhance and personalize the experience of gameday and have a better opportunity to create additional streams of revenue.

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Hunting Monsters with Google Maps API

I was recently a guest blogger on the Google Geo Developers blog, outlining GameStop’s use of Google Maps APIs in building an immersive experience to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

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Here is a repost of the content:

If you’re going on a monster hunt, it’s a good idea to bring a map. And if you want to build buzz around the release of a new game, you should have the right tool as well—in our case it was Google Maps APIs. We built a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an action role-playing game from Warner Brothers and CD Projekt RED. After a visitor logs in to the promotional website, she is dropped into a map of the world and collects clues about where to find monsters. The goal is to be the first person to find each monster and win a prize.

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The game’s launch deadline required us to build the site within a tight timeframe. We chose Google Maps APIs because they provided the tools we needed to build our maps quickly and easily. They also let us focus on the site creative rather than get bogged down with technical issues. We use the Google Maps JavaScript API for the front end, to start the experience and immerse visitors into the virtual world. Then, with the Google Maps Street View Service, we allow users to search for monsters. We took images of the monsters and used overlays to drop them into familiar surroundings.

We use the Street View API to plant the user in a random location somewhere in the world, then visualize their surroundings, including monsters and trails of blood. We set a randomly generated starting point to the map based on five predefined locations. From there we have event listeners in place for ‘mapView: bounds_changed, streetView: visible_changed, streetView: position_changed, streetView: pov_changed, searchBox: places_changed’.

When the user has initialized Street View, we make a call to our API to see if any monsters are within a defined distance from the LatLng of our monster data set. We continue this test any time the position_changed event is fired until a monster is within range. At that point, we update the class of a div that sits above the map view. Each monster is assigned a specific CSS class, which allows us to easily make tweaks.

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Google Maps made it easy to combine the real world of Street View with imaginary creatures from the game. Our goal went beyond just our users having fun — we wanted to build a site that would create genuine excitement around the game and give people a taste of monster hunting in the real world.

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How To Remain Agile In the Face of Change

I was recently a member of the opening keynote panel for the iMedia Agency Summit discussing the topic “How to Remain Agile in the Face of Change”.

Key Commentary from 15:08 – 19:00

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We discussed many topics including what the agency of the future will look like, mergers and acquisitions and I went into detail outlining cross-company collaboration and innovation.

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Here is an excerpt from an iMedia panel recap and my additional commentary:

Tom Edwards, EVP of digital strategy and innovation at The Marketing Arm, stressed looking to develop subject matter expertise horizontally as well as vertically within your agency, and what he viewed as the three most important elements of success:

Curation, Creation, and Education.

“I’m a big believer in content creation, especially at the junior level, and developing their own personal brand,”

The agency of the near future will be highly consultative. “There needs to be a shift in strategy from transactional to transformational”

iMedia Summit - Tom Edwards

“Our role is to be the digital navigator and strategic partner with our clients. This includes mapping against a non-linear path to purchase that aligns with data, content, channels and value.”

RE: Innovation, “Ultimately we are focused on aligning the art + science as well as develop future models to enable brand partners with new methodologies to integrating emerging technology that provides business value”

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10 Learnings from Facebook F8 2015

Today my recap of 10 Learnings from Facebook F8 is the lead cover story for iMedia. Here is a link to the full article and below is a repost of the content.

iMedia Cover Story F8

I recently attended the 2015 Facebook F8 conference. Below is a recap of my top ten takeaways from the annual developer conference. The following outlines the current and future plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State – The primary theme of the opening keynote delivered by Mark Zuckerburg was one of “people first”. Facebook is now positioning it’s core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a simple messaging platform, Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression.

Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for 1:1 communication and direct connection with businesses and groups continues to be a go to for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

The core Facebook experience is focused on further extending it’s video capabilities while highlighting how they will remain relevant in the future by setting the foundation to support deeply immersive forms of content such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging – One of the highly touted announcements was the expansion of Messenger to a 3rd party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially with WhatsApp confirming during the conference that they will not be providing API’s any time soon on their product roadmap.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 1

3rd parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement and attribution through images, videos, GIF’s and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 2

Facebook also announced the beta launch of Businesses on messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service and value add to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video – Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day and Facebook took another step towards challenging Google owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view count synchronization, full-bleed video and includes social actions in video such as Like and Share. Key points to consider are the desktop version is flash based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area that the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations and now “Cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy – With all of the talk about Facebook and brands lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users the newsfeed is still mostly deterministic in terms of the content that is served. This confirmed that peer to peer sharing is still the most viable option for content centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to sharing of content and the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the audience and then selecting the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift towards reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates as well as groups are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins – Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-in’s team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-in’s to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step is to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions, custom lists and is being rewritten from scratch for a better mobile experience.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page and vice-versa. This is a key point to consider as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram – The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community first and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram newsfeed is 100% deterministic meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, potentially adding features like a ReGram is not currently on the roadmap as the goal is to keep the experience simple.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. Likes, follows and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of ReGram functionality.

For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors and create a relationship with passionate fans to showcase their view of the brand as the core assets to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel – In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view Omnichannel as the future of commerce and they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State – The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy outlined by Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer. In his keynote, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future. Those being planetary connectivity, natural interfaces and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

Services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus in the near future for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach was the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the key immediate takeaways was the fact that 3d spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook newsfeed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT – Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they are leveraging the platform as a service offering to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers such as user management, push notifications and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is now extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google and recently IBM are all vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook being the data aggregator between devices, software and data to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality – Virtual Reality played a key role throughout F8. Facebook referenced Virtual Reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park to their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent half of a keynote simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality and how the timing is now right as the cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling and there is broad industry participation and a long-term commitment to advance the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state while ensuring they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting towards the family of apps strategy as well as building towards connected devices and immersive experiences, Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

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MLB At Bat App Hits Big With Fans

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the early success of the MLB At Bat App as it has already hit 5 million downloads.

(Mobile Marketer) To what degree is the app a way for MLB to connect with younger audiences via mobile given baseball fans tend to be older on average than for some other sports?

(Tom Edwards) The key for MLB’s At Bat strategy is the portability and access to content. By providing a personalized approach to content consumption as well as live look-in’s the MLB app provides flexibility regardless of market. This is especially appealing to younger fans who may want instant access to content.

(Mobile Marketer) What do these downloads say about the power of mobile to enhance consumption not just of one game but of the whole universe of the Major League Baseball season for highly engaged fans?

(Tom Edwards) The MLB approach to accessibility and cross-device support is key to early success and success will be sustained throughout the season as MLB has struck the ideal balance between portability and personalization.

MLB - BlackFin360

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Emotive Robots Key to Unlocking IOT Potential

Over the 15 years of my digital career, I have witnessed significant technological innovation and massive shifts in consumer behavior based on the impact of innovation. Highlights include the evolution of the personal computer, the now ubiquitous smartphone, and the explosion of consumer-centric social media.

Apple-iPhone-generations

Looking to the near future, the current rate of exponential technological advancement will continue to accelerate, and we are primed for another significant leap forward; the concept of emotive computing is about to enter the lives of early adopters and has the potential to shift our behaviors once again.

During SXSW 2015, the personal side of robots session presented by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal caught my attention. Her session focused on the potential impact of emotive computing as the next wave of computing innovation.

emotive computing

Emotive computing is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. The key to the concept is the alignment of both emotion and cognition as the drivers of adaptive behavior.

I have followed Dr. Breazeal’s work at MIT since the late ’90s when I first heard about the Kismet project. Kismet was designed to be one of the first socio-emotive AI. The core focus was to move past simple cognitive skills and align psychosocial elements into the robot’s ability to understand and treat people as people.

MIT Kismet

During the session, Dr. Breazeal discussed the evolution of Kismet to the next iteration of the AI, Leonardo, as well as how emotion + cognition should be the basis of intelligence and adaptive behavior – which is key to creating an emotive AI.

leonardo ai

The advancements made with Kismet and Leonardo have set the foundation for a new type of consumer device that is focused on delivering multiple levels of utility while also demonstrating adaptive behavior.

Reviewing the current landscape of personal robots, we see mostly single utility or cognitively-driven robots. They enhance our lives by the tasks they complete but are weak in their ability to conceive emotional engagement.

personal robots

This is where I begin to consider the current product/market fit for socially emotive AI. When you start to consider the Internet of Things or the Internet of Better Things, there are key components missing that would unlock new levels of value, which would lead to mass adoption. Most of the current ecosystem is comprised of single-utility solutions that are neither interconnected nor adaptive.

Internet-of-Things

Initially, my assumption is that the IOT would benefit from a central hub that is built to scale. The basis for the hub has already been approached by Amazon with Echo. But the current technology tied to virtual assistants is built around search and retrieval based entities with limited capabilities to learn.

virtual assistant

With the rise of emotive computing, it is feasible that the core hub for the connected home could be an emotive AI. Toward the end of her talk, Dr. Breazeal revealed that her current initiative as founder and Chief Science Officer of Jibo is to deliver such an entity into homes sooner rather than later.

Jibo is being touted as the first “family robot” and positioned as a support and an enhancer to humans. The IndieGoGo crowdfunded robot raised over 2.2 million dollars and the first run is currently in production. Jibo can see, hear, speak, learn, assist, and relate to individuals, and is going to be the first mass-produced emotive AI.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.35.10 PM

Jibo is also going to be built on a comprehensive developer ecosystem. With toolkits and a full SDK available, the focus is on creating a scalable content delivery platform.

Jibo SDK

I have talked a lot about how the IOT needs to be navigated with the consumer at the center, and I have shared my view of the #databaseofyou as the key to unlocking marketing value from the IOT, but little did I know that the database would actually reside within an emotive AI.

Evolution of Social Marketing Future - Tom Edwards

From a marketing perspective, I am very interested in the adoption and advancement of Jibo. If an emotive AI becomes the primary hub for the connected home, then it also becomes a potential content delivery platform that is the key connection between brands and consumers in the connected home.

By leveraging the full SDK and potentially certifying content, brands could provide contextually valuable experiences delivered through Jibo, or potentially new skills that extend the utility of the robot.

This is obviously speculation on how to potentially leverage emotive computing to create marketing value, but it is important to begin understanding that a significant shift is coming and that it may have just arrived in a small robotic form.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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