10 Takeaways from CES 2023

It was great to be back at the Las Vegas Convention Center for CES 2023. This is one of my favorite events of the year, as it provides a near-future preview of technology that will further empower end-users, augment intelligence and experiences through intelligent algorithms and allow us to transport versions of ourselves into digital realms. Here are my ten top takeaways from CES 2023.

Reality, Augmented – The shift to an entirely seamless reality that fuses digital and physical will require a convergence of technology, behavioral modifications, access, and adoption. At CES 2023, the path toward augmented virtuality consisted of advancements from wearables that create haptic feedback in the form of ITRI’s Imeta washable shirt to Sony’s Mocopi motion capture kit that allows for easy and affordable VTuber motion tracking to quickly port your movement into virtual experiences. The latest advancements in augmented and mixed reality glasses have increased the field of view, more processing power, and seamlessly integrated video and audio, all with a smaller form factor.

Discuss Smart glass advancement via Vuzix & Magic Leap
ITRI IMeta Haptic T-Shirt

Shifting Modalities – Our world today is primarily mobile-centric and desktop for productivity. CES shows a time very soon when we must think about multi-modal experiences. Voice, Vision, and Touch all become a part of a new canvas that we, as marketers, will have available to weave narratives that bridge physical and digital experiences. One of the highlights of the show was OVR technology. They integrate smell into digital and immersive experiences. Another great example was from Microsoft and their partner Touchcast with an immersive store of the future concept.

OVR Technology overview – Scent to immersive experience
Example from Microsoft and Touchcast – Store of the Future

Empowering Accessibility – The initial wave of technology brings hype and a rush to create relevant use cases. The same was accurate when it came to augmenting reality and immersive experiences. This year, there was a directed focus on creating experiences that empower accessibility.

Example of accessible immersive experience sans headset
Xander Glasses Convert Speech to Visual Text in Real Time!

Beam Me Anywhere – Holograms were core elements of science fiction for decades. Star Trek and Star Wars popularized the concept of weaving holograms into a part of an ongoing narrative. At CES 2023, holograms took significant leaps forward. From photo-realistic, fully interactive experiences that create the illusion of presence anywhere in the world via Proto and ARTH Media to Hypervsn’s ever-evolving open-air hologram systems. Holograms are no longer just for science fiction.

ARTH Hologram Overview
Proto Hologram Private Demo
Demo of HypervsnSmartV Product Configurator Solution

AI Everywhere < AI Enhanced – Pre-pandemic, AI was everywhere at CES, and It was more of a label with actual AI models in nascent forms or simply as a marketing ploy for foot traffic. In 2023, AI was indeed the foundation from product innovation to enhanced experiences, focused on delivering ease and convenience via intelligent algorithms.

CES 2023 – AI OVERVIEW

What is Human? – One of the hottest trends in the pharma space to close out 2022 was the introduction and experimentation of Digital Humans. From medical education to extending the reach and accessibility of field reps, creating digital opinion leaders, scalable HCP communication, and dynamic patient-centric experiences connected to conversational AI. The ability to mix human and digital experiences to extend and scale through digital humans is a crucial trend for 2023.

CES 2023 – DeepBrain AI – Concierge

Digital Doppelgänger – A doppelgänger is a double of a living person. At CES 2023, the ability to create a digital replica took many forms. From quickly scanning your physical appearance for virtual experiences via Copresence, to capturing your likeness and memories via StoryFile, to creating digital reflections of your brain, heart, and eyes by Dassault Systèmes to enhance medical treatment. The role of digitally doubling oneself will be a pivotal on-ramp to future multi-modal experiences.

Dassault Systèmes Virtual Twin
StoryFile – Conversational AI built on Human narratives
CoPresence – Rapid Scanning & Real-Time Animation
DeepBrain AI – Digital Twin Celebrity Example

Empowered Wellness – In previous CES recaps, I have discussed the empowered consumer and a behaviorally driven expectation of control and personalization. In 2023, the focus has shifted towards empowered wellness. Many products, from wearables to gamified health experiences, tap into various personalized data sets that offer customized approaches to counteract fatigue, passively monitor glucose levels without needles, and deploy deep learning AI algorithms that combine computer vision and trend analysis to provide personalized nutrition plans via nail imaging analysis. Each entry in this category is focused on creating relevant, personalized experiences that enhance overall wellness.

Lotte Healthcare – Cazzle Personalization Engine

Care Anywhere – This year at CES 2023, digital health and therapeutic solutions were front and center. From technology that empowers a patient to direct control of treatment via light therapy to advanced remote care monitoring via AI-enabled wearables and sensors that can passively detect abnormalities tied to various disease states to predict health declines. Preventative care, at-home testing, portable clinical devices, passive adherence tracking, and more will continue to bridge the gap between at-home convenience and FDA-approved digital therapeutics.

Care Wear – LED Light Therapy

Robotic Companions – For me personally, physical robots have been a highlight for me at CES. I always seek out the latest robotic advancements, from toy-form factors, to utility-centric robots, to humanoid robots, as I look for the next evolution of emotive robotics. I view robotics as a core aspect of what I call the five levels of autonomy, and they will complement conversational AI as well as digital humans on the path toward a Westworld-like future. At CES 2023, one robot in particular bridged robotics with mental wellness and elder care. This robot provides emotional care services, serves as a companion, and offers various activities. The key point is that in addition to the hype around digital experiences, physical robots will also become proxies for customers, patients, and caregivers.

Robot-Based Emotional Care Services

There are many more takeaways from the show. There were trends tied to sustainability, new advancements in the automotive industry, and many more start-ups out of Eureka Park that are early stage but are providing a view into next year’s show. The role of digital health across CES, SXSW, and other shows will continue to rise as health and wellness are at the forefront of industry post pandemic.

Stay tuned for more trend and event recaps. Follow Tom @BlackFin360 across social channels.

2022 Evolution of Experience Live Keynote

This week I had an opportunity to travel to Maui, Hawaii, to deliver the newly revamped Evolution of Experience keynote. Besides the amazing setting next to the beautiful Maui shoreline, the crowd was fantastic as we dove into some of the latest trends redefining consumer expectations for all industries.


The keynote has been revamped, and I have evolved the core format of Empower, Exponential, and Enhanced by also adding Experience. All with the same trademark of infusing pop culture as a lead-in to understanding complex topics. From Star Wars, Fortnite, Roblox, Pixar, The Matrix, Stranger Things, Minority Report, West World, and so much more.


Empower is all about understanding that consumers are in control. Their expectations are radically transforming how business is done. This section covers all facets of GenZ, gaming, introduction to the Metaverse, Ethereum, NFTs, POAPs, the evolving role of the camera, how to identify a fad vs. trend, and the rise of private messaging, and how the camera is a bridge to intelligence.

Exponential is all about ease and convenience as the core motivation for adopting intelligent systems. This section covers the basics of AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, understanding algorithms, why we are in the golden age of AI, predictive decisioning, generative models, five levels of autonomy, digital humans, virtual assistants, and the rise of the proxy web.

Enhanced is all about perception between physical and digital and how and when technology will adapt to us vs. us adapting to it. This section dives deeper into the Metaverse, the role of computer vision, digital synths, multi-modal interfaces, digital twins, holograms, synthetic reality, and my prediction of when we will see multi-modal at scale.

Experience is an entirely new section that helps the audience understand how to think about emerging trend territories and how it applies to their business, from understanding how digital channels and behaviors have evolved to how they can personally take steps to better understand the world around them. This section ends with a practical how-to section that provides deeper introductions to the topics of the Metaverse, Ethereum, NFTs, AI, Digital Humans, and Emerging Tech.

I am excited to be back on stage and the future is crystalizing before our eyes. It’s an exciting time and I love educating and inspiring through technology.

A special thank you to the WSADA team for a great event!

Evolution of Experience Keynote – NextPharma

I recently had the opportunity to deliver the opening keynote for the Vii Health Next Pharma Summit AI & Personalization Masterclass event.

I presented the full evolution of experience and how to shift towards an experience mindset keynote. The talk highlighted how emerging technology and consumer behavior blur the line between physical and digital reality and will end on how you and your organization can prepare for accelerated change.

Here is the fully produced talk.

Previews of the event.

Follow Tom Edwards across social platforms @BlackFin360

2020 CX Digital Summit

I recently had the opportunity to speak to an amazing Indian audience during the 2020 CX Digital Summit. I delivered an updated version of the Innovation To Reality Keynote focusing on CX and how consumer behavior drives engagement.

The talk focused on the impact of Gen Z consumer behavior and their expectations tied to the camera as a bridge to intelligence. Then, we discussed what I consider the five levels of autonomy and how CX experiences will evolve at each stage. Finally, we dive into the behavioral drivers that will create the shift from mobile being the primary way we interact with technology to our environment adapting to us.

It’s fun to deliver keynotes at 1 am! It’s worth the lack of sleep to engage with audiences across the globe!


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Virtually Speaking Episode #24

I have enjoyed working with Cal Entertainment founder Chris Lee for years as I am an exclusive speaker for Cal Entertainment. We sit down for a fun discussion that covers a lot of ground. We talk about trends across data, AI, gaming, spatial computing, new form factors beyond mobile, as well as some fun with Funko Pops.

1:48 – Introduction and opening statements tied to trends.
3:05 – Creating experiences that go beyond desktop and mobile.
4:10 – Tour of Matrix-inspired office.
4:42 – Awards & BlackFin360.
7:12 – Voice ecosystem and thoughts on Google, Amazon, and Apple.
8:24 – Discuss virtual proxies & how assistants will evolve.
12:00 – How should business leaders think about integrating tech and trends into their existing business with a focus on value creation.
12:50 – The new 4 Ps to consider for marketers.
14:50 – What about small business owners? What do they need to look at?
18:36 – How to apply AI & Machine learning to understand affinities and behaviors.
19:44 – Thoughts on ownership of data.
20:17 – The role of AI & it’s not the enemy via the Pixar Theory
24:15 – Digital Simulation.
25:50 – What about search beyond desktop & mobile? The role of the Google knowledge graph.
27:06 – Moving beyond mobile devices & the rise of smart glasses.
28:14 – Smart contacts are the future.
30:10 – The rise of gaming & how to align with business.
31:55 – What brands should be in gaming?
35:00 – Creating authentic connections.
37:48 – Digital twins & the proxy twin hypothesis.
41:08 – Forecasting trends.
42:18 – Data, experiences, ethics.
45:20 – Blockchain & Industries like Healthcare, Financial Services.
46:55 – Digital rights management
47:30 – Closing thoughts

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your next event, please book with Chris Lee via chris@calentertainment.com or call 877-300-1888 ext. 101.

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Innovation To Reality Recap

Leo Clifford of the Telco Global Forum wrote a recap of my recent Innovation To Reality talk here it is reposted below.

Empower. Exponential. Enhanced. These are the three words that Tom Edwards of Blackfin360 – a data-driven digitally centric marketing technology executive and professional futurist speaker – uses to describe the evolution of experience as the innovation scene evolves. He calls it ‘innovation to reality.’ Tom recently spoke at the Telco Global Forum event. In his talk, he mentions them as elements that can help drive business and digital transformation.

“Empower is all about consumer behavior influencing technology. Exponential is all about the role that intelligence systems are going to play. And Enhance is all about simulation. These are the foundational elements to align consumer behavior and emerging technology and its impact on business and digital transformation.”

– Tom Edwards

Understanding consumer behavior and how that impacts experiences

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For Tom, it starts with understanding consumer behavior and how it affects technology. He estimates that 40 percent of the consumer market consists of Generation Z – the demographic of people born between the years 1996 and 2010. “They are the first mobile-first generation. They learn to swipe before they learn to speak. Businesses must understand that affinity and behavior and how it affects technology.” He says.

Today, we are heading to an age of emerging technologies that these consumers will interface with daily, and it is vital to understand how to connect with them at these various points. One popular emerging technology is the voice assistant technology installed on phones.

Alexa, Google, etc. are the first stage of autonomy in intelligent systems. From the research Tom has done across generations, one particular thing is consistent about why people will adopt intelligence systems into their everyday lives. “That is ease and convenience,” he says. These systems serve as delegates onto which people can delegate simple tasks. So they serve as a bridge between consumers and businesses such that ultimately, the mobile device will no longer be the primary means of interacting with technology. Therefore, organizations need to examine these systems and figure out how to communicate and have conversational experiences with them. 

Tom expects that an increase of these proxy-like systems will “require understanding how to provoke emotions from systems” as it is quite different from humans because we will be moving from a human consumer-centric way of marketing to one that is system-based.

How to prepare and what to expect 

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Businesses have data assets they possess and manage internally. The first step is understanding these assets. However, that is not enough. According to Tom, “90% of the information around consumers is unstructured”. They are found on the open web and in conversations online. Artificial intelligence can play a role in expediting the understanding of what is happening. Lastly, businesses want to understand intent signals. These are indicators that identify users who are actively reaching their line of products, and it is tied to search history. Ultimately, businesses want to make sure that they structure data in such a way that they are consequential across not only traditional search but voice ecosystems and spatial computing. All of these things are interconnected. Therefore, it is vital to have a thorough understanding of what information is available, what is usable, and why. 

The role data and intelligent systems will play in the near future

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In the voice assistance technology sector, Google wants to make the assistant in such a way that tasks are set up as real-life scenes, thus turning the whole delegation activity into a seamless experience for the user. An example of this is Google Duplex – a new technology woven into the Google Assistant – that reserved an appointment and rented a car! Tom postulates that with systems like these evolving, what we will begin to see is a virtual assistant acting as preference centers.

With the ever-present connectivity that the emergence of 5G networks will provide, edge computing – i.e., location of information processing where people produce or consume that information – in the form of building smart cities that can process data locally and instantaneously will become a reality. While the focus has been on the disruption happening in various industries as a result of these different technologies, it will move to the convergence of these intelligent systems, which will be powered by artificial intelligence that is fuelled by data. That data is what is going to enhance the experiences as they evolve. Training the machine learning models that drive these technologies will involve tons of data so that they can further improve user experiences. 

Prepare to make the shift from mobile devices

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Eventually, it is not going to be enough to create experiences for traditional desktop and mobile in digital marketing. Voice, vision, and touch are the new modalities that will drive the future of experience, and these are what businesses will need to pay attention to succeed. 

In light of these new modalities that are poised to drive the future of experience and digital marketing in businesses, how do you adopt these emerging technologies in your organization? “I follow a 70 to 20 to 10 kind of approach,” Tom advises. Seventy percent of your investment should be on tried and tested technologies that are going to stimulate business and digital transformation, 20 percent for technologies that are novel but you can prove some type of return based on the core objective you are trying to apply and 10 percent or less for technologies you are making educated guesses. 

“It is incredibly important to have a three-year road map,” he adds. In addition to the traditional four Ps – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion – of marketing strategy, he includes four additional Ps, namely, Plan, Predictive, Proxy, and Pervasive. Plan refers to your data strategy. Predictive involves knowing that data is going to drive a lot of predictive decision making that will get to a point where it can predict human behavior and subsequently lead to the third P, Proxy. Proxy involves understanding that virtual assistants will become proxies or deputies, communicating, and interacting with each other on our behalf, scheduling, and handling tasks. Lastly, Pervasive, you want to understand that you are designing experiences — pervasive experiences — namely touch, vision, and voice that will go beyond traditional desktop and mobile.

In summary, it is about doing what is working today. Next, examine the future experiences that are going to influence behavior and drive business and digital transformation that this article has discussed. Look out for use cases in other industries that you can apply to your business based on your objective and experiment. Finally, review what the 90 percent of your investment has accomplished, what is ultimately coming, and make educated bets on other technologies you want to explore.

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Tom’s Innovation to Reality talk is available here at the Telco Global Forum.

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If you’d like to contact Tom Edwards directly you can find him Here at Blackfin360 or linkedin.com/in/tedwards

Passion Drives Performance Keynote

Wow! It felt good to be back on stage with a socially distant audience. Yes, I wore a mask on stage per the organizer’s policy, but it was great to be in person! This was a bespoke talk designed to motivate future business & technology, men & women.

The talk covered how a passion for gaming, marketing, and technology, has shaped my career journey. This discussion was more personal and reflective than futurist, but I wanted to provide insights into how various passions have shaped my perspective and translated to driving business performance.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 via Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, and Twitter

Futurithmic Podcast – Tom Edwards

Futurithmic – ( Podcast Interview) Experiential Computing, 5G, AI & more. Tech titan Tom Edwards of BlackFin360 talks about how the blurring of the lines between technology and culture is only going to grow as AI, AR, and 5G become embedded in our physical spaces to replace our smartphones.

Tom Edwards – Futurithmic Episode 10

Connecting the dots of the technology of today with the future of tomorrow. Here are the timestamps for key topics discussed.

1:38 – Tech Titan Advocacy Award
2:01 – Experience Driven Culture
2:55 – Shift Towards Multi-modal & Enhancing Mobility
4:05 – Ambient Computing
4:50 – GenZs Impact on Emerging Technology
5:50 – Expectations of Technology & Adoption of AI
8:05 – Virtual Assistant as a Preference Center, Rise of the Proxy Web
10:15 – Consumer Choice vs. Ease & Convenience
11:30 – Smart Glasses Adoption
13:00 – Benefits of 5G Connectivity
15:15 – Use cases for combining 5G + AI + AR = Proxy Twin Hypothesis
17:45 – Volumetric Capture
19:40 – 5G & Artificial Intelligence = Edge Computing & Edge Analytics
23:40 – 3 Types of AI
24:30 – Intelligence Augmentation & Predictive Decisioning
26:30 – The Future… Privacy, Presence, Commerce, Enhancing Experiences
29:15 – Gaming, Esports, & Technology Adoption, Interaction Economy

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 via YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or connect via Linkedin

Path To Purchase Expo 2019 Keynote

I had the opportunity to provide a keynote on tech innovation for the 2019 Path to Purchase Expo in Chicago yesterday. It was a great crowd, high energy, and with a 30-minute timeslot, we had to cover a lot of ground! 

The focus of the talk was discussing the coming waves of technology and how that will impact consumer behavior along the path to purchase. This is the latest version of the InnovationToReality talk series covering all facets of consumer behavior and emerging technology.

We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies, & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology and consumer behavior will shift in the near future. We also discussed:

  • the role of esports
  • the camera as a bridge to intelligence
  • the role of virtual assistants and commerce
  • the rise of the proxy web
  • the 5 levels of autonomy
  • how the new 4P’s will enhance future strategy
  • the role and importance of 5G in the transition towards ubiquitous simulation.

Here is a link to the final presentation. Book Tom for your event today

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 on InstagramTwitterYouTube & connect via Linkedin.

Mobile World Congress 2019 Trend Recap

I recently had the opportunity to partner with Nokia to cover Mobile World Congress 2019. From highlighting key elements of their brand messaging around 5G, amplifying content from analyst meetings to on-camera work on the show floor. I really enjoyed partnering with Nokia.

Today, my full #MWC19 recap was posted on Futurithmic.com the recap views trends from MWC through the Innovation to Reality™ lens of Empower, Exponential, and Enhanced. The article covers all facets of experience and 5G. From Devices, AI, Gaming, Live Entertainment, and so much more. You can read the full article here.

Tom Edwards Mobile World Congress 2019 Recap

I was also engaged as a technology influencer to create cross channel social content, highlight Nokia & their 5G efforts during a recent keynote, as well as on-camera work during #MWC19. When it’s all said and done the content should drive north of 100,000 highly targeted views that will have boosted Nokia’s message during a very crowded MWC19.

Thanks again to Marianne and the entire @Nokia team.

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DFWIMA Headliner Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to provide the opening keynote for the Dallas Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association discussing trends tied to evolving consumer experiences. This is the latest version of the InnovationToReality talk series covering all facets of consumer behavior and emerging technology.

It was a fun and highly interactive keynote session! We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies, & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology and consumer behavior will shift in the near future. We talked about how the 5 levels of autonomy and the new 4P’s will impact industry 4.0. Finally, the role and importance of 5G in the transition towards ubiquitous simulation.

Here is a link to the final presentation. Book Tom for your event today

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube & connect via Linkedin.

In The News: Ad Age & Google Android OS

I recently provided commentary to Advertising Age discussing the recent shift in naming convention for Google’s operating system from dessert-themed names to a more traditional numbering system as well as commentary on the new Google Android branding.

Tom Edwards, chief innovation officer at agency Epsilon, says that “although the dessert names and the subsequent tie-ins to different snack brands was charming, it was difficult for consumers to track changes from one version to the next.” He adds: “Moving to a number-based system gives visual cues on the current version while also building urgency to upgrade.” 

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 via YouTube, Instagram or Twitter

Apple Live Event Recap & Reaction

Today’s event was all about Apple’s focus on new services. Normally these events discuss Hardware & Software, but today was all about new forms of subscriptions that allow consumers more control while showcasing Apple’s strategy to not only provide access /navigation/curation of entertainment but also serve as an end destination with new original content for gaming & entertainment.

Apple also provided a shock to the financial services system with the launch of Apple Card. With an interface and features yet to be seen by traditional banks, Apple is making a bold move towards controlling multiple facets of the consumer journey, all without advertising and an emphasis on privacy.

Here is the full recap:

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19 Trends for 2019

As technology seamlessly integrates into our lives we will continue to move towards a time when our technology adapts to us vs. us inputting into the technology.

2019 will accelerate the convergence of experiences. The shift from desktop and mobile to voice, vision and touch fueled by intelligent systems will be a key focus for the coming year.

We will see the role of voice-based assistants evolve towards predictive proxies, advancing hardware will unlock spatial computing (AR/VR/Mixed/Hyper Reality) and rapidly evolving iterations of artificial intelligence will transform the camera and how we interact with the world around us. 

We hope you enjoy our 2019 trend predictions. We filter the coming convergence through the framework of Empower, Exponential, and Enhanced

The 2019 Trend analysis from my team and I live at http://theinnovationlounge.com.

EMPOWER – Technology that empowers consumers

EXPONENTIAL – Technology fueling intelligence and autonomous systems.

ENHANCED – Technology that is blurring the lines between physical & digital

BEYOND – Tech that is on the horizon for consideration

Each not only discusses the technology, but also the short and long term implications for marketers to consider.

EMPOWER IMPLICATIONS

EXPONENTIAL IMPLICATIONS

ENHANCED IMPLICATIONS

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United Airlines & Executive Perspective Interview

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeffrey Hayzlett of C-Suite TV to kick off season 7 of Executive Perspectives. We discussed digital disruption, conversational experiences, artificial intelligence and best practices for leveraging data to connect with consumers.

screenshot-2016-12-15-13-34-43

Now, I have heard from multiple sources that the interview is available On-demand on domestic and international United Airlines flights.

Here is a transcript of the full interview.

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Frito-Lay Boundless Marketing Summit Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Frito-Lay Boundless Marketing Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on the camera as a platform, artificial intelligence, multi-modal and the New 4 P’s of AI marketing.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the role of data for AI as well as the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs ultimately becoming a proxy for the individual that will split decision journeys between consumers and algorithms.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital reality and how immersive computing, augmented reality, computer vision and the intelligent camera will forever redefine our version of reality.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by artificial intelligence. This includes a date when project it will all converge as well as 4 new P’s of marketing.

It was an awesome crowd and I really enjoyed the 30 minute session + Q&A.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

MarTech Conference Tom Edwards Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at MarTech West 2018.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance to focus on Gen Z & Computer Vision, The evolution of the camera from capture to communication and much more.

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will split decision journeys between consumers and algorithms.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever our version of reality.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a good crowd and I really enjoyed the 45 minute session + Q&A.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Dr. Pepper Media Masters Keynote

I had the privilege of presenting to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group marketing organization today via a Keynote format on the topics of data & the evolution of experience during their Media Masters event.

The first half of the hour-long talk explored how Epsilon Agency approaches data and data design. Highlighting our work with structured data, our view on the alignment of actioning of data through mapping attributes to dimensions and then highlighting multiple case studies tied to our unstructured data work and machine learning approach.


Then the presentation shifted into the full Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance and discussed how we will evolve from us inputting into technology, to our environment adapting to us.

Dr. Pepper Media Masters

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Viva Fresh Expo Tom Edwards Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to deliver a version of the Evolution of Experience talk as a keynote during the Viva Fresh Expo in San Antonio, Texas.

The first half of the talk explored the rise of Amazon and it impacts on consumer behavior and retail experiences. Then the presentation shifted into the full Evolution of Experience through the E^3 Framework of  Empower, Exponential and Enhance and discussed how we will evolve from us inputting into technology, to our environment adapting to us.

VivaFresh Expo

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy of the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

In The News: AdAge SXSW 2018 Preview

I was recently asked by Advertising Age to provide my thoughts on a number of topics related to SXSW of years past and what to expect in 2018.

Here is the commentary that was included in the digital and print version:

Here is the full commentary I provided to AdAge:

AdAge – How many times have you attended SXSW?

I have attended SXSW a dozen times over the past 18 years. I am definitely a SXSW veteran. I used to attend SXSW to look for the “next big thing”. From Twitter, Foursquare, Highlight, and Meerkat, SXSW used to be the launching pad for consumer-centric platforms that held the promise for new ways to connect with consumers.

Now in 2018, it’s less about apps and more about intelligent systems and the ever-evolving ways we interface with technology. That and of course SXSW is one of a handful of events where most of the industry converges on a single location.

AdAge – What do you think will be different this year versus last?

SXSW used to be about the spectacle of brand installations from a 56 foot tall Doritos Vending Machine and a 20-foot tall TIE-fighter, celebrating the launch of The Force Awakens Blu-Ray, now it’s shifted to more about the “off-cesar chavez” events held by partners that are just as entertaining and enlighting if not more-so than some of the official programming and experiences.

AdAge – What will people be talking about, or are there any trends you expect to take over?

I am very interested to see the progression of AI-based topics heading into 2018. In 2017, there was a lot of discussion around intelligence augmentation, leveraging machine learning and exploring emotive robotics.

This year, I am looking for interesting use cases of Computer vision, signals leading to the proxy web (virtual assistants as agents to consumers) as well as new ways to develop tangible user interfaces, new methods, and platforms to action against large datasets.Finally, I am looking for new and compelling marketing use cases for blockchain (similar to Kodak at CES and Unilever/IBM’s new blockchain media product).

AdAge – Are there any events you’re excited to see?

SXSW AI, IOT, BOTS AND BREW on March 11th, 2018.

AdAge – Do you think there is SXSW fatigue this year? Why or why not?

My reason for attending and my view of SXSW has changed over the years. Before I would seek out the brand installations and attend partner events (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) for behind the scenes access to how platforms and marketing solutions are evolving.

Now I primarily attend to gauge how the trends I track over the course of the year manifest themselves in a more consumer-focused way. CES is all about the technology and SXSW is more about the application of technology with a focus on consumer experiences and that is where there is still value for me as a marketer.

It’s not as overt as in years past but you can begin to see broader shifts in technology and emerging technology that is going to impact marketing and advertising. It’s less about the next big app and more about connecting the dots between new ways to connect with services and consumers through intelligent systems.

AdAge – How will you be dressed?

The SXSW uniform – Skinny jeans, trendy shoes & frames, some sort of sweater jacket and a light “man bag” for minimal swag.

AdAge – Any survival tips?

Can’t understate it enough, pack light for mobility, drink plenty of water, carry battery backups and a very portable umbrella as it’s rained on and off the past few years.

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Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.

It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.

Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.

Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.

I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.

Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.

The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.

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WMD Podcast: Discussing the Future of AI

I recently had the opportunity to join Eric Hanes on his Words of Mass Disruption podcast. We discussed artificial intelligence for everyday conversation.

My goal was to help those who may not be familiar with artificial intelligence to develop a perspective on the topic. We talked about AI, Machine Learning, IOT and digital assistants.

Thanks in advance for listening! It was a fun conversation.

Words of Mass Disruption Podcast: EP 119 Tom Edwards on Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

WMD Podcast via iTunes

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Trends for 2018 and Beyond

It’s my favorite time of year. No, I am not talking about Santa & reindeer, I am talking about predictions!

Here is a full analysis of potential trends to consider heading into 2018 via a non-linear or choose your own adventure video format just click the image below.

This video starts with a brief intro, then you will have the option to select a specific section of interest or watch it straight through from beginning to end.

In 2017 I spoke a lot about the evolution of experience through the E^3 Innovation To Reality series.  2018 will bring us closer to a convergence of technology that empowers, intelligent systems that enhance, and the line between physical and digital reality will continue to blur.

EMPOWER – Highlighting everything from camera as a platform, virtual reality gets social, evolution of social messaging, physical experiences that enhance digital, immersive eSports, expansion of contextual commerce and more, this section dives into technology that empowers consumers.

ENHANCE – How AI & intelligent systems are accelerating the evolution of experience. From the democratization of AI, device based machine learning, blockchain put to use, visual discovery, voice + visual conversational experiences, and personalized audio.

ENVIRONMENT – How our world is shifting towards synthetic reality with the convergence of location, computer vision and mixed reality that will reshape how we interact with the physical world. This section includes pervasive robotics, biometric security, augmented art, mixing reality, connected intelligence, and brain controlled interfaces.

EXPERIENCE – This section highlights the convergence of empower, enhance and environment. With topics discussed such as Gen Z = enhance vs. create, system based marketing, mobile disruption, ambient computing, and synthetic reality.

Download the complete 2018 trends presentation. 

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Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Steve Harries @Steve_Harries22

Ian Beacraft @IanBcraft

Jeremy Olken @JeremyOlken

 

68 Top Trends So Far in 2017

Over the past six months, my team and I have evaluated the top emerging technology trends that will fundamentally reshape how marketers will connect with consumers.

Here is a brief preview:

The full analysis includes 68 trends categorized by our trend framework of Empower, Enhance, Feel & Ambient Computing. This will replace our original framework of Connection, Cognition & Immersion.

Empower to create content, engage and connect through new interfaces and touchpoints.

Enhance your daily life activities and responsibilities through intelligent systems and proxy’s.

Feel emotional experiences like pleasure and excitement delivered through immersive computing.

Ambient computing is the alignment of all three behavioral drivers.

Download the 2017 Midyear Trend Deck Today!

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Symposium 2017

I had the privilege to speak and host Epsilon Symposium 2017. With hundreds of clients in attendance, I was tasked with discussing the role of artificial intelligence across Epsilon and Conversant as well as tease examples of emerging technology that my team and I are working on.

Here are the key highlights I discussed during Symposium 2017. Part of my role is evaluating and embracing the latest innovations and determining how they connect to our Epsilon and Conversant solutions.

Whether that’s through conversational and voice based experiences such as Alexa Voice Services, Google Assistant & Siri, or the amazing artificial intelligence work happening here at Epsilon and Conversant or immersive computing such as augmented & virtual reality, that’s bolstered by our data, insights and creative execution.

So the last ten years I have talked about how disruption is the new normal. How emerging technology can impact consumer behavior and what it means for marketers.

Today we are at an inflection point. Where we are seeing the shift from mobile first to AI first. It’s less about disruption and more about acceleration through intelligent systems.

That’s where Epsilon and Conversant’s heritage of aligning data and technology and driving innovation is the key to leveraging whatever the future may bring and where consumers will be.

Within the agency business, we are using Machine Learning to categorize the data of culture along with our data of identity to fuel our creative approach.

From a product perspective, We are also achieving harmony (Pun intended ;) through machine learning and AI through a centralized intelligence hub for decisioning across channels.

Finally, Conversant is at the forefront of integrating AI through machine learning and image recognition to create world-class speed and scale where every 5 minutes, consumer actions across 160M individual profiles lead to over a billion model updates.

The key moving forward is empowering consumers, enhancing solutions through artificial intelligence and creating immersive experiences

Regardless of how the future state shifts and evolves… be it through bots becoming agents on our behalf, the evolution of consumer based journey’s expanding to include system based journey’s or a hyper connected augmented reality future. All of those elements will be highly dependent on Data and decisioning as the foundational element.

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Apple WWDC 2017 Full Recap

When I think of Apple, 3 things come to mind: Industrial design of it’s hardware, interoperability across products, and of course millions of apps. After WWDC 2017, I need to add artificial intelligence (AI) enabled experiences, device level privacy and a new focus on augmented reality.

Here is the Full Recap:

AI was a the key theme of WWDC (mentioned 20 times in 2.5 hours). Apple highlighted how both machine learning and deep learning are now integrated across multiple products. From Apple Watch, Siri, facial recognition in photos and even hand written notes in iOS11. AI integrated experiences were one of the more important areas discussed during WWDC. 

WWDC also saw a new hardware launch in the form of the HomePod. HomePod is Apple’s entry into the Smart speaker market. While Siri is integrated into the device it’s to be determined the role it can play for brand marketers as the skills and actions we have begun to depend on in other product ecosystems was surprising absent.

Apple is also investing heavily into enabling augmented reality experiences through hardware and software. With the launch of ARKit, their strategy is to empower the millions of developers to take their AR building blocks and create immersive experiences that are closely mapped to the real world via world tracking for both 2D and 3D elements.

Apple is building a foundation for the future built on device level privacy, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and multimodal computing through evolving Siri beyond handsets into cars and the home with Homepod.

Here is a quick reaction video following the WWDC Keynote.

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Google I/O 2017 Full Recap

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California. It was an incredibly compelling event as Google shifted their focus as a company from mobile first to AI first. This means that all products will be redefined and enhanced through various forms of AI.

This includes the Google Assistant, which was the star of the show. The deck goes into detail, but it’s incredibly important that we begin thinking about the role that the Google Assistant plays across home, smartphone, wearables, auto and soon AR. With the launch on the iPhone announced at the conference it gives Assistant 200 million voice enabled devices out of the gate.

What is also key to consider is the Google Assistant equivalent of an Alexa Skill, called an Action by Google. Actions can support transactions outside of Amazon as well as not requiring installation. Also, there is a very small number of actions that exist today, but a huge and rapidly growing ecosystem of devices that are Google Assistant enabled.

Here is the full trend recap and analysis:

Section one covers trends tied to connection & cognition:

  • Vision of Ubiquitous Computing
  • Multi-Modal Computing
  • Google Assistant (Actions, Auto, Computer Vision, Wear)
  • Android O
  • Progressive Web Apps
  • Structured Data & Search

Section two covers all facets of immersive computing:

  • Immersive Computing
  • Daydream (Virtual Reality)
  • Social VR
  • WebVR
  • Visual Positioning Services
  • Tango (Augmented Reality) 
  • WebAR

In addition to the attached recap, there is also a 4 minute “light recap” video:

For third party commentary, discussed the role of Google Lens & Computer Vision with AdExchanger here

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Facebook F8 Full Recap & Analysis

I look forward to Facebook’s F8 developer conference each year. It’s a great opportunity to see how Facebook is prioritizing and adjusting their 10 year road map based on shifting consumer behavior and new advancements in technology. 

What was fascinating about this years conference is the rate they are accelerating the convergence of technologies that connect us, immerse us into new virtual worlds and advancing innovation well beyond what we would expect from a company that identifies itself as social first.

Facebook wants to redefine how we think about reality and the not too distant future when all reality is augmented and virtual. The following provides analysis across the consumer centric filters of connection, cognition and immersion.

  • Connection – Trends that reimagine how we connect, enable and empower consumers
  • Cognition – Trends where machine based intelligence will disrupt and redefine data assets and how we work
  • Immersion – Trends that align technology and presence to evoke emotion, entertain and power commerce

Here are few examples of the 15 territories analyzed starting with:

The Camera as the First Augmented Reality Platform  – Facebook understands that in order to truly create scale the key is to empower consumers, developers and other 3rd parties to create experiences on their behalf.  Consumer empowerment is powerful and will accelerate adoption and ultimately influence consumer behavior towards a new normal.



The democratization of augmented reality (AR) powered by advancing artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to redefine advertisers approaches to content marketing, making it less about content and more about enabling experiences through compelling and contextually relevant effects.

Frames & AR Studio – Two sets of tools comprise the new Camera Effects Platform. The Frames Studio allows for quick deployment and creation of effects that can enhance an image, video or even Facebook live stream. This platform allows artists, creators and brands to create frames that can be targeted using Facebook targeting abilities for distribution.

The AR Studio is where it’s possible to create light weight AR effects that can developed and enhanced with elements such as real-time data to build highly contextual AR experiences. This is where brand marketers have an opportunity to align data + experiences.

Gaming & eSports

Convergence of gaming & video has been a massive trend over the past 24 months. 2B people play games each month. The rise and consumption of game streams now consists of 665M people watching people play games.

On Facebook people watch, play & create. Facebook’s gaming video product supports eSports (14-31% of live gaming consumption), developers, gaming entertainers and social connection for consumers of game stream content. 

Gaming content is digitally native baked in real time interactivity. With gaming video the audience is more than a spectator. They participate in the experience via comments and getting involved in the gameplay.

Messenger 2.0 – 2016 was considered the year of the bot. Primarily fueled by Facebook’s Messenger beta which accelerated the development of a bot ecosystem to further enhance the Messenger experience.

In 2017, Facebook is positioning Messenger as Messenger 2.0 with a sharp focus on integration of other services via chat extensions giving 3rd party bots the ability to seamlessly connect other services such as Spotify or Apple Music.

Facebook is also keen on driving discovery among the 100,000 bots now on the platform via the new discover tab.

Data Design & Artificial Intelligence 

Facebook is focused on leveraging multiple facets of Artificial Intelligence to power their products and accelerate 3rd party ecosystems.

Computer vision, natural language processing, and algorithms drive content discovery and their newly launched AR experiences. AI is now a foundational element to Facebook’s go-to-market strategy.

Facebook’s ultimate goal is to develop intelligent systems that go beyond computer vision and truly understand the world. This will then converge with their vision of an AR driven future to create a unified experience.

The Rise of Proxy’s – In the very near future we as consumers will have intelligent systems serving the role of a proxy. Facebook is betting on M to first serve as a virtual assistant that will eventually become a predictive service that is the foundation for their virtual computing future.

M will integrate into multiple facets of a users life from sharing location to recommendations. In the near future M can become the connection between a recommendation and AR object recognition action.

Virtual Reality & Facebook Spaces – Facebook officially launched Spaces for Oculus. This was first teased at F8 last year and the experience has definitely advanced from the grainy avatars from a year ago.

Facebook took research and learnings from Oculus Rooms via the Samsung Gear and refined an experience that lets your virtual avatar interact with Facebook content and friends in a virtual environment.

From virtual selfies to watching 360 video. It’s very clear to see that Facebook is focused on creating a new for of social interaction via a virtual environment.

The Future – Facebook took the first major step in achieving their 10 year goal of fully immersive augmented reality by launching the camera as their first augmented reality platform.

On day 2 of the conference, they outlined in detail how they view  transparent glasses (deemed more socially appropriate) or some equivalent that is paired with a general artificial intelligence system to enhance our daily lives.

This includes improving memory, cognition, recognition and redefining how we interact with the physical world and collaborate with one another.

Here is the full recap consisting of all 15 territories analyzed plus implications for brand marketers to consider based on the trend identified. 

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Advertising Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer

Today Advertising Age announced their 2017 list of top 25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers and I am honored to be included.


Photo by Bradley Taylor, Caprock Studio 

A big thank you to the Epsilon corporate communications team, DGC and Advertising Age judges. I am truly humbled by the inclusion with such a great list of industry innovators.

I am incredibly grateful to my data design strategy and innovation teams. From research, planning, data design, digital strategy, digital experience delivery, social and innovation a huge thank you for all that you do.

Tom Edwards AdAge

Finally, a very special thank you to my amazing wife Cherlyn for supporting all the crazy hours and travel for the past 17 years.

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In The News: eMarketer Wearables Forecast

I was recently interviewed by eMarketer about wearables in 2017 and how they are trending for marketers as they evaluated the future forecast of wearables.

The full report is available to eMarketer PRO subscribers.

My summarized commentary is that most of the client demand I have experienced over the past few years has been web and mobile centric.

Over the years I have focused on the intersection of wearables, and the data that’s created and how that can refine a more personalized experience. But the reality is that most wearables are simple extensions of a mobile device and that limits their value to marketers.

Most of the wearable based programs I have been a part of were focused more on the data created as well as actionable notifications but interest has shifted significantly towards conversational experiences such as chatbots and voice based systems.

The full report is available to eMarketer PRO subscribers.

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SXSW Interactive 2017 Trend Recap

This past week, over 30,000 digitally centric professionals, including myself and Ian Beacraft, descended on Austin, Texas for SXSW Interactive 2017. Our focus was to meet with key strategic partners, gauge emerging trends, monitor product launches and most importantly create content and POVs.

Content included a comprehensive text based trend recap download, live streaming from the trade show floor as well as a full video recap.

Over the years SXSW was an ideal event to gauge and project consumer centric tech trends. From Twitter empowering consumers in 2007, Foursquare focusing on location in 2009, social proximity with Highlight in 2012 and live streaming via Meerkat in 2015.

2017 focused on the rise of intelligent systems from a content perspective and immersive experiences bridged physical to digital.

Marketing is quickly shifting from disruptive tech to acceleration through intelligent systems. It’s less about the latest app fad, and more about how quickly the combination of data, intelligent systems and smart environments are going to impact consumer behavior in the future.

The technology featured at SXSWi 2017 aligns with my view of the coming intelligence revolution. This revolution will be built on new data types that will simplify complex tasks, predict need states and usher in new forms of computing that will radically alter how we connect with both consumers and intelligent proxies.

The attached event recap highlights trends across our framework of Connection, Cognition, Immersion & Convergence which is building towards enabling the acceleration of the Intelligence Revolution.

Connection – Trends that reimagine how we connect, enable and empower consumers.

  •  How conversational experiences are evolving and the impact that voice based experiences will have on the web
  • How social proximity and personalization have been refined
  • How interactive video is evolving

Cognition – Trends where machine-based intelligence will disrupt and redefine data assets and how we work.

  • Understand the evolution of storytelling through AI and the importance of data design
  • How emotive robotics will serve as a bridge between general assistants of today to the intelligent and more human systems of tomorrow
  • Learn more about the friction between artificial intelligence and intelligence augmentation of humans
  • Learn about the pending intelligence revolution and the role that the Proxy Web will play

Immersion – Trends that align technology and presence to evoke emotion, entertain and power commerce

  • Understand the evolution of immersive and full sensory experiences. From new forms of user interfaces such as light to mixed reality and everything in-between

Here is the download for the SXSW 2017 Trend Recap and Full Recap Video.

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MWC 2017 – Data Design Speaking Recap

What a great show! Mobile World Congress is when the tech world converges on Barcelona, Spain to discuss the ever expanding domain of mobile. I was excited to attend this years event for three reasons: speaking engagement, conducting tours for media and live streaming on behalf of Epsilon. This post will focus on a comprehensive recap of my panel discussion and pre-session approach.

SPEAKING – I had the opportunity to speak at the Modern Marketing Summit event at Mobile World Congress with the CMO of Aston Martin. The main topic was discussing where he could place bets on emerging tech in the near future. I wanted to put more rigor around the discussion and spent time ahead of the session diving into our proprietary data assets to uncover hidden truths about Aston Martin drivers as the basis for recommendations on where to invest for the future.

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One of the teams I lead is called Data Design. We take unstructured data from a given category such as automotive and apply machine learning to process conversation among owners and map key perceptions, occasions and attributes as well as personality. Machine learning directs our quantitative research and then we overlay some of the worlds largest proprietary data assets to map category perceptions and behavior among Aston Martin drivers.

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This approach proved impactful as the foundation based on data design allowed for differentiation of opinion through insights that allowed a more seamless transition to discuss the intersection of emerging technology and new behavioral signals that will continue to empower consumers.

I begin mapping future state strategy through the lens of Connection, Cognition & Immersion. 

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CONNECTION – Trends and technology that connect us, this can include voice based and conversational experiences such as chatbots. Here are previous posts on Connection.

COGNITION – All facets of artificial intelligence such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Neural Networks. Here is a previous post on AI.

IMMERSION – Full sensing and immersive experiences, Virtual, Augmented, Mixed, Merged reality, all of these will have an impact in the near future, and possibly shift entertainment from the back seat to the front. Here are previous Immersion posts

Once I outlined each of the components of the Connection, Cognition & Immersion framework I then recommended that he first begin by laying a foundational data designed strategy to prepare for the pending intelligence revolution.

The Intelligence Revolution will incorporate both reactive and predictive elements in anticipation of the rise of the Proxy Web & System based journeys. All of this is built on a foundation of data + decisioning and will transcend individual technologies.

Here is additional context about the four components of the intelligence revolution:

REACTIVE DATA SETS – Today most consumer centric marketing is based on reactive data. For this panel I began with machine learning based AI to map the psychographics of the Aston Martin user.

PREDICTIVE – Next you will see the rise of predictive algorithms and API’s. This is where you see the combination of reactive datasets and regression analysis and modeling to build towards predictive experiences.

PROXY WEB – This is essential for the most important point to consider which will be the time very soon when the consumer may not be at the center of marketing. The Proxy web is where bots or other intelligent systems will drive predictive discovery driven by vertical and horizontal algorithms. Where the bots become the new DSP’s and IOT based sensors and intelligent environments become the new DMP’s.

SYSTEM BASED JOURNEYS – That will lead to a new type of consumer journey, except this time it is the addition of system based journeys that provide both predictive elements, but also overlay situational awareness across an intelligent environment.

More detail to come on the topic of the Intelligence revolution in a future post.

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LIVE: MWC 2017 Trend Recap

Here is a video recap shot live from the floor of Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona.

The video outlines emerging technology and trends tied to Connection, Cognition and Immersion and touches on key territories such as:

  • Evolution of Conversational Experiences
  • Artificial intelligence and Advancements in Smart Assistants
  • New Types of Interfaces Beyond Mobile
  • The rise of 5G
  • Convergence of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality

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CES 2017 Trend Recap

2017 is off to a fast start with CES 2017 as the first major tech expo of the year. Epsilon’s agency is uniquely positioned to drive growth through data driven creative and the intersection of emerging technology & consumer behavior. From a strategy & innovation lens it starts at CES.

Prior to the start of the new year we published our 2017 trend framework this document sets the foundation for how we identify macro trend territories that have the highest probability of creating new behaviors and empower consumers through the lens of Connection, Cognition & Immersion in the near future.

CES 2017 was our first opportunity to further validate the territories but more importantly identify some of the key tech trends that will have a major impact on marketing over the next few years. In the attached document you will find an in-depth review of key trends such as the impact a connected product ecosystem and how Alexa Voice Services are quickly positioning to scale quickly through 3rd party integrations. You will also find examples of new types of interfaces and input devices that may further lead to an ambient computing future.

 

2017 is also the turning point from “everything will be connected” to everything will be cognified”. The impact of artificial intelligence will be a big topic in 2017 and Epsilon is uniquely positioned to capitalize (look for more on this topic on January 19th via an industry AI op-ed). CES validated the idea of pervasive cognition as well as advancements via contextual assistants and object recognition.

 

The rapidly developing immersion ecosystem built on full sensory immersion, spatial freedom and alternative interfaces also caught our attention.

 

Here is the full recap deck:

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In The News: Entrepreneur.com & AI

I recently sat down with Jeffrey Hayzlett of C-suite TV for the first episode of season 7 for Executive Perspectives live.

He recently wrote a piece for Entrepreneur.com outlining 5 business trends that will take off in 2017. Jeffrey referenced our conversation regarding automation of conversational experiences through artificial intelligence.

screenshot-2017-01-11-19-29-54

The infusion of voice-based technology into consumer products, and the ways in which brands are shifting from social media to social messaging strategies were the subject I addressed with Epsilon Chief Digital Officer Tom Edwards, during a recent interview. Edwards told me how “disruption is the new normal” and how chatbots are the next thing chief marketing officers will have to deal with as technologies keep evolving.

For more insight from the discussion here is a link to the full interview.

c-suite-blackfin360

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Trends To Watch in 2017

Technology is now essential to our daily lives. Accessibility and empowerment has transformed how we connect and communicate. This has led to new forms of user interaction that will usher in the business models of the future.

2017 will be comprised of new types of conversational experiences to connect with consumers. It will see the continued evolution of artificial intelligence and connected systems as well as the rapid rise of third-party ecosystems supporting virtual, augmented and mixed reality.

The following trend deck outlines the evolution of marketing in 2017 through the consumer centric filters of connection, cognition and immersion and is now available for download.

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  • CONNECTION – Trends that reimagine how we connect, enable and empower consumers.
    • Examples include: Simplified Conversational Experiences, Pervasive Voice-Based Interfaces, Search and Retrieval to 1:1 Prediction, Affective Datasets and eSports

screenshot-2016-12-02-14-47-49

  • COGNITION – Trends where machine based intelligence will disrupt and redefine data assets and how we work.
    • Examples include: Machine Learning as a Service, Centaur Intelligence, Blockchain & AI

Screenshot 2016-12-02 14.52.09.png

  • IMMERSION – Trends that align technology and presence to evoke emotion, entertain and power commerce.
    • Examples include: Democratization of VR, VR Commerce, Social VR, (Re)Mixed Reality

Screenshot 2016-12-02 14.57.24.png

  • ZONE OF CONVERGENCE – Trends that align elements of connection, cognition and immersion that will redefine consumer engagement.
    • Examples include: Cars as the next Mobile Platform, Holographic Computing, Ambient Computing.

screenshot-2016-12-02-14-55-53

How we consume and interact via digital channels is about to be absorbed and redefined. We believe that 2017 will begin the convergence of connection, cognition and immersion toward an ambient computing future built on new data types that will simplify complex tasks and predict need states vs reacting.

Download the 2017 Trend Predictions Today!

epsilon-top-trends-for-2017

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

C-Suite TV Discussion – Disruption, UX, The Future

This week I had the pleasure of joining the C-Suite TV team at their San Francisco event and was interviewed by Jeffrey Hayzlett. It was a fun discussion as he asked me about the shift from social media to social messaging, strategies to make the shift, voice based experiences, disruption, galactic cannibalism, trends and the future of connecting with consumers.

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Below is a recap of my key talking points for each question.

(C-Suite TV – JH) As we’re on the verge of a transformational moment in marketing with the shift from social media to social messaging, how are marketers making this shift?

(Tom Edwards – TE) Over the past 5-10 years we as marketers have focused primarily on the open web + social media. Earlier this year social messaging passed social media in terms of monthly active users. Consumers are ready for conversational experiences. Part of the reason for the appeal is that it is seen as safe, comfortable and intimate.

I spent most of this year researching, writing and educating our brand partners about what this shift can mean for their business. We conducted proprietary research on what consumers want from conversational experiences that led to an ebook on the topic.

Social Shift Toward Messaging

As we dug into consumer expectations around conversational experiences, our research found that they want experiences that are convenient and support local experiences, there is openness to pay within social messaging and an expectation that it will connect physical and digital elements such as in store coupons and discounts, there is also a willingness to interact with intelligent systems.  Research also shows that 60% of millennials would prefer talking to a chatbot vs. talking to a human when it comes to resolving questions about online shopping.

From a marketing perspective there has been a significant amount of experimentation trying to create the ideal experience. With Apple, Facebook, LINE, Kik, Skype and more providing tools and services that will allow others through 3d party SDKs & API’s to create an ecosystem. Their hope is to become the central portal in order to empower consumers and drive commerce. Facebook doesn’t own the hardware or the operating system, so they are invested in keeping people in the messenger experience.

Some experiences are trying to further personify the brand, others are about creating utility or a sense of intimacy with the brand. The goal is to create a real-time experience that is centralized in one conversational thread.

The key will be creating experiences that are not disruptive but are actually attentive to the current and future needs of the consumer. The ideal experiences will be built around the premise of simplification + prediction. It’s not about a deeper personal connection like a friend, but to be able to anticipate, predict and enhance a consumers experience.

This is where we see the idea of CONNECTION + COGNITION coming together.

(JH) What processes and strategies do you need in place to make this shift effective?

(TE) I recommend an approach that is based on five core factors of Simplification, Data Design, Prediction, Ambient Design & Physical to Digital.

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1 – (SIMPLIFICATION) The key is to reduce complexity in consumers lives and create experiences that are ownable by the brand’s domain. Mine customer data for most commonly asked questions and expand from there with use cases focused on enhancing and simplifying experiences.

2 – (DATA DESIGN) Have a strategy not just to capture data but how to use it. Define the role of unstructured data in refining the experience. Consider what new data points are being integrated to inform future prediction. How are you making the data actionable? On my team we now have a data design team that sits between traditional brand planning + digital strategy. This is the intersection of Big Data + Design Thinking. They own the tools, assets and data sources and understand how to craft a data driven narrative.

3 – (PREDICTION) Anticipate consumer needs is key for the future of conversational experiences. Messenger experiences are not designed to be like Google search, at least not yet. Google is working towards the ideal intersection between search & retrieval vs. predictive. But again a combination of data, predictive analytics built on working data is the entry point towards truly predictive experiences. (cognitive will accelerate this)

4 – (AMBIENT DESIGN) The future of computing is tied to ambient experiences, or how your environment interacts with you. It is critical to approach designing conversational and voice based UX differently.

5 – (PHYSICAL TO DIGITAL) One of the other elements is the rise of conversational commerce. There is a concerted effort to closely align physical & digital shopping experiences as a means to enhance the customer experience. Our research shows there is an expectation from consumers to have local experiences connect to digital through conversational experiences.

(JH) Let’s talk about some newer technologies, how does voice based technology play into this shift to a conversational user experience?

(TE) I am a strong believer in the fact that voice based experiences and artificial intelligence systems will become pervasive in our everyday lives. The core of the experience is a combination of automated speech recognition, natural language processing and a cloud based AI that comprise a voice based user experience.

I am very intrigued by the possibility of the ability to create context through voice services such as Amazon Alexa Voice Services & the recently launched Google Home. Voice based experiences will play a key role during this time as our interactions with connected systems and the rise of micro services as a primary mechanism to navigate a hyper connected world will become the new normal.

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I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.

We will begin to see services such as Alexa Voice Services quickly proliferate throughout 3rd party devices from in home IOT systems to connected vehicles and “skills” will become a key component for how we navigate beyond screens. Estimates already show over 28 billion connected devices by 2019.

(JH) We hear you say that “disruption is the new normal” what do you mean by that?

(TE) Digital disruption has been at the center of major consumer shifts over the past 10 years. Disruption is now the new normal. The Premise is change is constant and experimentation is critical and how you integrate trends into your existing business is key.

The acceleration of technology has led to the rapid empowerment of the consumer. What organizations have to consider is that with each iteration of technology and consumer empowerment new types of interactions will lead to the need to rethink the business models of today.

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This has a significant impact on the C-suite as the pressure on CMO’s to be creative thinkers, intelligent around data, domains and disciplines as well as mitigation of risk, pressure to innovate, find and retain talent and try to be as agile as possible. Combined with the pace of new interaction models there is a lack of strategy to deal with the shifts in a meaningful way as the focus is on short term stability.

This is why it’s important to build a plan with a foundational approach to data and understand what domains the brand can own and where in the new interaction types there are opportunities to redefine business models. This is why I have chosen Connection, Cognition and Immersion as the pillars of how brands can map to the new interaction types of the near future.

(JH) I heard you say we’re on the verge of galactic cannibalism can you explain what this means for marketers and how can marketers stay ahead of the game?

(TE) I have spoken a lot recently about how disruption is the new normal. I recently heard someone compare the last five years as a “supernova” of disruption in terms of the intensity and velocity of change.

With the rise of artificial intelligence, conversational & ambient experiences, connected systems and mixed reality on the horizon we are moving well beyond a supernova and are now on the verge of galactic cannibalism.

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Galactic cannibalism is when one galaxy collides with another and there is a subsequent absorption of parts of one into the other. From a consumer marketing standpoint how we consume and interact via digital channels is about to be absorbed and redefined through new advancements in connection, cognition & immersion.

The key point to surviving and thriving is to have a comprehensive data strategy as data assets will serve as the fuel of this shift. Regardless of which galaxies collide a thorough understanding of data, content, experiences and outcomes is a marketing foundation for the future.

Also, it is important to understand how data will evolve. Currently the focus is on 1st part & 3rd party data. But in the emerging world think of the data created by connected systems as well as new forms of real time sentiment data, such as your eyes in a VR experience or facial recognition in a retail setting. These will require a comprehensive data design effort to craft content, experiences and drive outcomes as a marketing foundation for the future.

Ultimately we will have to acknowledge that the relationship between consumers and technology will fundamentally change from consumers operating technology to technology operating for consumers through data.

(JH) How do you apply the trends of today to the business models of the future?

(TE) The first step is to be aware of what is happening. Analysts such as Gartner and Forrester are evaluating and publishing their rankings of where technology is going. One of my favorites is the Gartner Hype Cycle.

One of my responsibilities with Epsilon is I lead the innovation practice for the agency business. We have designed an approach that is consumer centric, data driven, iterative and allows our brand partners to scale emerging technologies and integrate trends into tangible solutions that drive business outcomes. The practice is comprised of four distinct elements that span research, workshops, experimentation and transformation.

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Regarding research & trends, we leverage Epsilon’s proprietary data and analytics, first and third party research, emerging companies and established partner networks to research, curate and educate on the latest trends and how it can apply to our clients business.

Our approach is as follows:

Our team identifies a new tech/emerging tech…

1. Track Product/Technology Announcement

2. Measure Velocity of coverage & discussion

3. Conduct Initial analysis & POV outlining potential value/impact

4. Explore outcome impacts & role of tech in consumer journey

5. Map vertical specific use cases

6. Educate internal teams & external clients

7. Identify early vendor partners and alpha/beta opportunities

8. Conduct Project based experiments

9. Capture & package project based success

10. Build business value case for horizon consideration

Once you have identified your trends its helpful to begin to filter across key macro trend territories, in this case I am exploring trends that reach across

Connection, Cognition & Immersion

(JH) What’s really resonating with consumers right now? What should marketers be paying attention too?

(TE) Anonymous personalization through dynamic content, targeted video content, Personalized, connecting the consumer experience across digital to physical & 1:1 messaging that is authentic, provides value and is contextually relevant is key.

Human attention is now a scarce commodity. Attention is a resource – and we only have so much to give. The key to experience design is built around data, content & channels or experiences.

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I like to start with data, it can be 1st party or secondary data sources, but I look for attitudinal, behavioral in addition to standard demographic. Transactional data can also be a key element and consistency of message is key.

(JH) What is the future of connecting with consumers?

(TE) I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.

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The key will be to create data designed experiences that empower consumers.

Here is a link to the full video interview kicking off season 7.

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In The News: Luxury Daily & Seasonal Retail

I was recently asked by the team at Luxury Daily to elaborate on a proprietary Epsilon research initiative tied to how likely consumers are to shop in-stores vs. online for the 2016 holiday season.

Findings show that 87% of shoppers are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to purchase at brick and mortar stores this year, with 55% of shoppers “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to look at a product online and then go to a store to buy.

Conversely, 76% of shoppers are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to purchase online this holiday season, with 54% of shoppers “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to look in store for a product and go online to find the best deal. These findings further signify the importance of personalizing communications both online and offline and creating a seamless customer journey across marketing channels.

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With this as a baseline, I was asked by Luxury Daily to outline the key findings and impact for luxury retailers.

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Luxury Daily also asked how luxury retailers and retailers in general should respond.

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Voice Based UI Best Practices

Over the past year I have focused research efforts on the shift towards conversational experiences and what consumers expect. The research has been covered by Adweek and it’s fascinating how open consumers are to engaging and adopting these experiences as long as they are easy to use and are convenient.

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One flavor of conversational experiences is tied to voice based user experiences. I recently visited Amazon HQ in Seattle and wrote about my experience with the newly formed Amazon Alexa partner team and the rise of voice based user experiences.

Since this article published I have seen client interest and demand for voice based concepts and skill creation rise as our brand partners see the potential of voice based systems.

Here is a slide from a recent client presentation. Almost every meeting over the past few months has included discussions around voice based UI.

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I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.

Screenshot 2016-08-29 09.48.40

Voice based experiences will play a key role during this time as our interactions with connected systems and the rise of micro services as a primary mechanism to navigate a hyper connected world will become the new normal.

We will begin to see services such as Alexa Voice Services quickly proliferate throughout 3rd party devices from in home IOT systems to connected vehicles and “skills” will become a key component for how we navigate beyond screens. Estimates already show over 28 billion connected devices by 2019.

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Developing voice based experiences differs greatly from visually driven experiences. Visual experiences provide immediate context and cues to the end user that can guide the user and enhance the experience.

Here are 5 emerging voice UI design patterns the Amazon team and I discussed and subsequent best practices and points to consider when designing voice based skills.

  1. Infinitely Wide Top Level UI

With a mobile user experience, users have the benefit of visual cues that can guide their actions within a given experience. Be it a hamburger menu or on-screen prompts. With Voice based UI the top level of the UI is infinitely wide. Here are a few best practices for building solutions to beyond infinity wide top level.

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Don’t assume users know what to do – It’s important the first time a voice skill is initiated to provide additional detail and tell the user about their what options they have for interacting with your experience.

Expect the Unexpected – Unlike visual interfaces there is no way to limit what users can say in speech interaction. It’s important to plan for reasonable things users might say that are not supported and handle intelligently.

2) Definitive Choices – The key to successful Voice UI design is to make the next consumer action clear. Consumers will not always say what they want so it is incredibly important to map intent beyond the normal function of a skill. An example is how a consumer may end a session. They may utter done, quit, etc… and the skill needs to provide clear action for how to end the session. Here are additional points to consider.

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Make it clear that the user needs to respond – Ask the user a question vs. simply making a statement.

Clearly present the options – Prompts are very important, especially if the question set is an either/or vs. yes/no.

Keep it Brief – Speech is linear and time based. Users cannot skim spoken content like visual content. Quick decisions are key, so voice based prompts should be short, clear and concise.

Avoid too many choices – Make sure choices are clearly stated and do not present more than three choices at a time, avoid repetitive words.

Use Confirmation Selectively – Avoid dialogs that create too many confirmations, but confirm actions of high consequence.

3) Automatic Learning

One of the areas I am most excited about over the next few years is the intersection of artificial intelligence and the ability to apply machine learning and other higher level algorithms to create more personalized experiences. For Voice based UI it is important to understand how sessions can persist over time.

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Obtain one piece of information at a time – Users may not always give all of the information required in a single step. Ask for missing information step by step and focus on a progressive profiling strategy vs. lead capture.

Develop for Time Lapse – It is possible to create skills that allow for sessions to persist with end users. This can be hours or days. This can allow more data to be collected across sessions.

Personalize Over Time – As sessions persist and users interact with skills it is possible to further personalize the experience over time based on previous interactions.

4) Proactive Explanation

With traditional visual design a user can open a web page or a mobile app and the information design shows you what to do. With voice you don’t have a page so having the ability to clearly articulate definitive choices in addition to providing proactive explanations such as tutorials or help are critically important to reduce user frustration.

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Offer help for Complex Skills – If a skill does more than three functions, it is important to not overload a single prompt to the user. Present the most important information first, along with the option of a help session.

Make sure users know they are in the right place – In speech only interactions, users do not have the benefit of visuals to orient themselves. Using “landmarks” tells users that Alexa heard them correctly, orients them in the interaction and helps to instill trust.

Use Re-Promptiong to Provide Guidance – Offer a re-prompt if an error is triggered. This should include guidance on next steps

Offer a way out if the user gets stuck – Add instructions into the help session. “ You can also stop, if you’re done”.

Don’t blame the user – Errors will happen. Do not place blame on the user when errors happen.

5) Natural Dialog

Research shows that people are “voice activated” and we respond to voice technologies as we respond to actual people. This makes the crafting of voice based narratives incredibly important as the dialog needs to be natural, consumable and written for the ear not the eye. Here are a few key points to consider for enhancing natural dialog within a skill.

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Present information in consumable pieces – Humans only retain a small amount of information that they hear, only present what is absolutely required in order to keep the interaction as short as possible.

Longer lists need to be broken out into three to five items and ask the user if they want to continue after presented with each chunk.

Write for the Ear, not the Eye – The prompts written for voice-forward experiences will be heard, not read, so it’s important to write them for spoken conversation. Pay attention to punctuation.

Avoid Technical & Legal Jargon – Be honest with the user, but don’t use technical jargon that the user won’t understand or that does not sound natural. Add legal disclaimers to the Alexa app for users to read and process.

Rely on the text, not stress and intonation – Use words to effectively convey information. It is not possible to control the stress and intonation of the speech. You can add breaks but cannot change elements such as pitch, range, rate, duration and volume.

Clarify Specialized Abbreviations and Symbols – If an abbreviation such as a phone number or chemical compound is somewhat specialized, ensure to test the text-to-speech conversion to see if additional steps need to be made.

One final takeaway RE: the Alexa voice based system is the proximity to transaction and list creation via Amazon’s core services. This combined with 6 years of development tied to Alexa Voice Services and the rising partner ecosystem are all signals towards the convergence of connection, cognition and immersion.

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Disruption is the New Normal

I recently had the pleasure to speak at Success North Dallas discussing the topic of DISRUPTION is The New Normal. This hour long discussion looked at the past, present and future of emerging technology and how to apply the trends of today to the business models of the future.

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The past looked at key milestones from the launch of the iPhone to the rise of visual storytelling.

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The present looks at how aligning events + context into moments matters, how co-creation is the new normal and the rise of conversational experiences.

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The future looks at the role cognitive computing, immersive experiences and cars as the next mobile platform will play as we look to connect the present to the future.

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It was a highly interactive and energetic crowd!

Success North Dallas

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