Print Innovation Exchange Headliner Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to headline the 2019 Print Innovation Exchange in Minneapolis, MN. It was a fun and highly interactive keynote session! We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology & and behavior will shift in the near future and how the 5 levels of autonomy and the new 4P’s will impact the print industry. 

The full Evolution of Experience Keynote is available below.

Thank you and please follow @BlackFin360 across social platforms for various updates and a little bit of fun.

In the News: AdAge Fortnite & Gen Z

I was recently asked by Advertising Age why/if Fortnite is a social network for Gen Z. The behaviors tied to gaming cannot be ignored and the brands that can seamlessly capitalize on creating value, providing exclusive content and enhance creativity will reap the rewards.

Here is my full commentary:

AdAge : Are you buying or selling the notion that Fortnite is a social platform? 

Tom: Fortnite and gaming, in general, is DEFINITELY a social platform, especially for GENZ. It’s not just about the core gameplay. I see groups getting together to create within the game, to conduct private matches with friends and of course for squad play but it also extends to watching streamers via Twitch & YouTube and sharing content.

There is a seamless flow between in-game and associating with game content on the go. Plus with cross-platform play, it doesn’t matter whether you are on Mobile, Nintendo Switch, PC or Xbox you are always able to connect. I see it in my own home as Fortnite has become the starting point for my youngest (11) and his friends to gather, compare in-game skins and then figure out whether they want to create, set up a private match or just play battle royale. 

AdAge: Why or why not? Some brands have gotten into Fortnite (Samsung, Nike, NFL, John Wick, Avengers). 

TOM:
That said, what should brands be thinking about if entering this universe? Brands should definitely consider how they are aligning with titles like Fortnite as well as eSports (competitive gaming). It’s incredibly important to understand the game properly, the fan base and focus on adding value. It’s less about a passive sponsorship and more about creating value or desire through either free downloadable content or virtual items like Skins in Fortnite. 

AdAge: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

TOM: Gen Z spends 2.5 hours a day with on-demand content and 1.5 hours a day gaming. It’s less about content marketing and more about empowering their creativity. Gaming is a social currency for GenZ. Things like virtual skins are the new Jordans (Although virtual Jordan’s were recently introduced via Fortnite). Gaming culture is now mainstream and how advertisers should think about gaming and the power of integrating with various properties should be at the top of the list for brands that covet cultural relevance. 

Here is a link to full article.

AdAge Tom Edwards Commentary

Follow Tom on Twitter/Instagram/YouTube @BlackFin360

Google I/O 2019 Trends & Analysis

Here is a quick reaction & recap video with highlights from today’s Google I/O 2019 event. Google continues to build towards an ambient future. The most exciting announcements were tied to the consolidation of augmented reality, computer vision and 3D experiences directly into search results, the next iteration of Google Duplex for the web that is a direct push towards proxy assistants for all, the evolution of Google Assistant moving towards the center of the operating system and how to prepare content for multimodal discovery and so much more.

Google I/O 2019 Trend & Analysis

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

In The News: AdExchanger & F8

I was recently asked by Ad Exchanger to provide my thoughts tied to announcements made at Facebook’s 2019 F8 developer conference. Here is a link to the published Ad Exchanger article.

My full commentary is outlined below:

(Ad Exchanger) Does this “privacy vision” feel sincere or is Facebook cleverly positioning its shift?

(TOM) I feel the shift from Facebook to “the Future is Private” was necessary as the shift reflects how consumers have been interacting since 2016 when social messaging surpassed open social in terms of usage behavior. 

The company went through a similar shift in 2014 with the myopic focus on becoming “Mobile First” with 100% focus and resource allocation supporting the vision. I see the same focus here with privacy. It makes sense that this was the macro theme for F8 and a rallying cry to adjust the product suites. The focus on interoperability and encryption as well as shifting messenger to be the new connection point for friends and families is a smart move. 

Separately, how much of an impact will the privacy vision have on how Facebook will be able to monetize?

How this impacts advertising will be interesting. While the focus on reduced permanence and the statements around privacy and encryption are good tent pole statements, item #6 in the privacy manifesto was Secure Data Storage. There will also be the consolation around Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp to create a new advertising network connected to 2 billion people. How data will be used to support the targeting is TBD but the infrastructure to create new avenues of reach and the new consumer acquisition ad units that drive to Messenger will be a key part of their strategy putting the onus on the consumer to share data, as outlined by the new consumer acquisition ad types for Messenger. 

And lastly, how will marketers need to change their Facebook strategy as engagement moves invariably away from the feed and more into Stories, messaging, etc.

(TOM) As marketers it’s important to understand the shift away from content marketing and focus on enabling creativity, utility and entertainment through Messenger and Instagram. Leaning into the ability to co-view video, utility through integration of various API’s, understanding the new payment and commerce capabilities and supporting the creation of AR experiences. Also understanding how to navigate the shift with FB5 towards groups and the role that marketers can play to create new types of connections. 

There is a lot to unpack and as Facebook continues to shift towards fast, reliable and private experiences, it will be interesting to see how the platforms actually evolve and where new opportunities to drive monetization will come from. 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

In The News: AdExchanger & Apple Live

I was recently asked for my thoughts about a number of the recent Apple Event announcements. From Apple’s original content strategy, monetization, advertising and more. Here is the published article.

Here was my full commentary on the topic:

(Ad Exchanger) Is what Apple planning a Netflix killer?

(TOM) Apple wants to be the Sherpa and curator of content. Their new recommendation engine is more about aggregation across subscriptions vs. being a content killer. I found it interesting that they are still maintaining partnerships with big cable providers while still differentiating through per channel subscriptions. This isn’t a Netflix killer, but Apple understands that moving forward individuals want control over their experiences and multiple subscriptions will exist. They want to be the “Google Search” of entertainment. This keeps their hardware and services sticky throughout.

With Apple TV+ original content, Apple is focusing on creating programming that will create affinity within their services as well. I would not call this a Netflix killer, but it’s a first step to not only control the navigation of content, but also become a destination as well. 

What makes sense in your view for Apple from a monetization standpoint for its original content and its foray into TV?

(TOM) What came through loud and clear from today’s event is Apple’s focus on allowing the consumer to ultimately control their entertainment options. By providing bite-sized subscription services across their ecosystem they gain a consistent stream of revenue that is scalable and minimizes risk of hardware cycles.

It’s yet to be determined how much revenue Apple TV+ will drive in terms of new subscriptions, but with the amount of talent that was showcased, including Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston and so many more providers, it just takes a few shows to catch on to drive monetization of original content.

What are your thoughts about how Apple will deal with advertisers/advertising, what a rev share might be if ads are one of the monetization options?

(TOM) I have not heard anything yet about how Apple will deal with advertisers/advertising. One recurring theme was re-emphasizing on device data processing and less information being available to 3rd parties. Apple may be less inclined to leverage an advertising-based model as they dive into recurring revenue with subscriptions. 

This doesn’t mean the end of advertisers with Apple. As with any program, driving awareness will need to occur outside of the Apple TV+ ecosystem. This is through content, traditional & performance-based advertising. Advertisers will need to focus on other affinity-based channels to connect audiences with programming.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Carnegie Dartlet Keynote

What a great week! From the OnCon Icon Awards to delivering a keynote during the 2019 Carnegie Dartlet Conference, it was a great week in Orlando!

What was great about #CarnegieConf, besides the fact that it was hosted at Walt Disney World, was the amazing audience of higher education professionals. They were highly engaged both during the talk and via social.

The talk centered around how technology will adapt to us vs. us adapting to it. From the role the camera will play as a bridge to intelligence, why the Pixar Theory explains AI adoption, and how spatial computing combined with virtual assistant proxies will change our view of reality.

Time to leave Disney but can’t wait to be back!

Book Tom for an event here.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

2019 Trends Digital Twins & Spatial Computing


One of the bigger trends in 2019 will be tied to Digital Twins… but why? Here is a full video breakdown. 

WHAT ARE DIGITAL TWINS

A digital twin refers to a digital replica or model of a physical asset (physical twin), processes, people, places, systems and devices that can be used for various purposes such as simulation of performance.

So It’s Primarily For FACTORIES COOL? WHY SHOULD I CARE? 

The primary use cases are tied to Industrial IOT scenarios.The Digital Twin serves as a bridge between physical and digital. The physical asset has IOT sensors that constantly collect various forms of data and feed the information to the digital twin to analyze and run predictive simulations. The findings from the virtual models can then be applied to the physical asset.

MY HYPOTHESIS – APPLICATION TO CONSUMERS 

There is a possible connection to consumer experience use cases tied to physical sensor data and virtual assistant proxy simulations.

What’s going to enable the use of consumer experience digital twin experiences at scale will be 5G connectivity. 5G will fuel connection of IOT frameworks as well as edge computing to reduce potential latency and the ability to process information as close to the source as possible.

This will allow connectivity and enhanced data transfer capabilities of the 20 billion IOT devices that exist today. 

ROLE OF THE PROXY WEB

2019 will also see the accelerated adoption and dependence on virtual assistants. There are now over 1 billion devices that provide voice assistant access today.

90 Million use voice assistants on smartphones and 45 million use them on smart speakers per month.

Digital assistants are an on ramp to further usage of AI and robotics. As virtual assistants move towards the center of the operating experience we will continue to move towards what I call, the Proxy Web.

PROXY WEB

This is where our virtual assistants begin managing certain aspects of our lives behind the scenes.

Our proxy will be able to communicate with other proxies and align preferences to map where to eat for dinner with a friend, it knows our food preferences and schedule.

This preference ownership and ability to communicate with other proxies and nodes in systems could be the key to unlocking spatial computing simulation at scale.

DYNAMIC SPATIAL COMPUTING EXPERIENCES 

One of the key areas of focus in 2019 will be the further melding of physical and digital experiences. We have seen the rapid democratization of various forms of spatial computing.

Spatial Computing is using the physical space around us as a medium to interact with technology.

This includes AR, VR, Mixed Reality, Hyper Reality and more. The goal with my digital twin hypothesis is to not only deliver a one size fits all experience but creating personalization at scale through spatial computing.

Digital Twin type simulations may be the key to connect custom reality overlays based on preferences driven by our virtual assistants. 

IDEA in Action

I am a Star Wars fan…. the retailer Target normally goes big with Star Wars in-store promotions when there is a major film release. With the digital twin simulation concept, based on my personal preferences, my virtual assistant knows that I have a strong affinity for Star Wars based on my behavior, this includes voice queries, watching Star Wars Theory videos via YouTube, my past purchases of Funko Pops,etc…

Instead of plastering the store with physical Star Wars promotional material, Target could have pre-mapped various spatial computing “experiences” that are triggered based preferences discoverable via my virtual assistant.

An in-store sensor network could feed previous trip information of me and other guests with a similar affinity and allow for the Star Wars focused simulation to be adjusted in real-time to get me to a specific area of the store or special offers on say retail specific Funko Pops.

The Digital Twin becomes the intelligence engine to enhance the base physical store experience and create a personalized experience based on predictive digital simulation. 

The ultimate goal being to have the environment and experience personalized to me based on multiple simulations and a connection to my preferences.

Questions? Tweet to Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Turning AI into ROI Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver a keynote to the Discover card Pulse network advisory team covering the topic of converting AI into ROI.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to Empower, Exponential and Enhanced with a detailed look at multiple facets of artificial intelligence including how the Pixar Theory, all movies are on the same timeline, foreshadows the path for how consumers will adopt AI fueled technology.

Next, we reviewed AI’s potential impact on business results and consumer behavior. The talk also covered the rapid convergence of multimodal technology experiences and the role AI will play in shifting behavior towards the intelligent camera via computer vision and virtual assistants.

The talk ended with a deep dive into the new AI driven 4 P’s of AI marketing and key points to consider to start to prepare for integration of AI into all facets of business.

For more on this topic I recently joined the AI Today Podcast and discussed a number of these topics and more.

AI TODAY PODCAST – Episode 50 – Enhancing Experiences with AI Interview

0:48 – Introduction
1:33 – Recap of Keynote topic at Amazon Alexa Voice Summit
2:53 – Discuss why we are in the “golden age of AI”
4:20 – Discuss The Pixar Theory and Artificial Intelligence
7:00 – Why predictive experiences are key for mass adoption of AI
9:00 – Discuss Gen Z & expectations of experiences
9:37 – How Epsilon Agency is using artificial intelligence
13:25 – What is the future of artificial intelligence?

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 or subscribe via YouTube

Stepping Into The Void

I first heard of the VOID three years ago and I was hooked when I watched the following YouTube video. Since then I have wanted to become fully immersed in the VOID and thought many times about making the trip to Utah where the first VOID facility was constructed.

Today, I didn’t have to travel to Utah. The VOID is now right here in Texas. I immediately bought tickets for a big crew and we descended south to Plano, Texas where the VOID is now embedded in a Cinemark theater, next to Cinemark HQ.

The Void is virtual reality overlaid onto physical environments. I have to say it is the most immersive simulated experience I have been a part of to date. This experience also happened to be Star Wars themed, so it combined two of my favorite things, emerging tech + Star Wars.

With location based elements, virtual reality, physical haptic equipment and environmental elements (feeling heat) combined it was an amazing mix of tactical and visual elements that created a truly immersive experience.

I have tried many forms of VR over the years at CES, SXSW, Facebook F8, Mobile World Congress and more. From headsets, motion simulators and more and nothing has compared to the VOID experience.

As you enter the experience there is a backpack full of a haptics and rumble packs as well as an onboard computer. The headset is a mix of Oculus Rift combined with a Leap Motion module. For this experience we were also able to pick up rifles partway through and then were inside a first person shooter. This included haptic feedback and a lot of friendly fire!

The best part was the social aspect of the experience. My fireteam was right there with me with visual and full audio. I had the opportunity to go through with my boys and I have to say that the real time augmented overlay and motion sensors to 1/10th of a degree and this was the best part of the experience.

When I looked at my boys they looked like Stormtroopers, except my 10 year old was a very short Stormtrooper. If you have an opportunity to visit the VOID experience I would highly recommend it.

One final element I enjoyed was the post event follow up. The message stayed with the theme of the event and also included stats such as accuracy and the number of Stormtroopers taken down.

Overall, the combination of real world physical elements plus incredibly immersive VR set a new bar for immersive digital experiences via the VOID.

Book your VOID experience at Cinemark.com/TheVOID

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

AI Today Podcast Interview

AI and cognitive technologies are enhancing many different industries and providing significant ROI for early adopters. However, AI is also providing benefit in improving our various experiences in life. In this podcast, Cognilytica analysts Kathleen Walch and Ronald Schmelzer interview Tom Edwards, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at Epsilon Agency, who shares insights into how AI is impacting marketing, customer experience, and more. He also shares how the “Pixar Theory” fits into the general vision of technology adoption and how, as a culture, we’ve come to accept AI in our daily lives.

Topics Discussed:

0:48 – Introduction
1:33 – Recap of Keynote topic at Amazon Alexa Voice Summit
2:53 – Discuss why we are in the “golden age of AI”
4:20 – Discuss The Pixar Theory and Artificial Intelligence
7:00 – Why predictive experiences are key for mass adoption of AI
9:00 – Discuss Gen Z & expectations of experiences
9:37 – How Epsilon Agency is using artificial intelligence
13:25 – What is the future of artificial intelligence?

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

 

Evanta CMO Summit Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Evanta CMO Summit in Dallas, Texas.

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, the New 4 P’s of AI marketing and new themes introduced by the Apple WWDC 2018 that happened earlier in the day.

REX Executive Roundtables IHRSA Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote for the REX Executive Roundtable group at the San Diego Zoo. This was a lead-up event to recent IHRSA 2018 conference.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance to bring examples relevant for the evolution of experience in the fitness industry.

Here is the full 45-minute keynote.

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

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

10 Reasons Westworld Won SXSW

Westworld’s SXSW 2018 activation was one of the most talked about and highly sought after experiences in recent memory. Many elements made this the best experiential experience to hit SXSW in my many years of attending.

Here are 10 reasons why the Westworld experience is one of the best-branded activations ever to hit SXSW.

1) Authenticity – The 2 acres dedicated to recreating Sweetwater was a sight to see. From the white doors of the Mesa Gold Station leading into Westworld to the carefully crafted buildings to the actors who never broke character. This level of authenticity and interaction was a key to why this execution more than any other I have been a part of was so compelling.



2) Exclusivity – The event was one of the toughest tickets at SXSW in 2018. Most of the times were reserved prior to the start of the conference.  The options to score a spot were either the incredibly long standby lines or hitting the lottery with Lyft… more on that later… The amount of social traffic I saw by those who didn’t get into the experience almost rivaled those that were highlighting their time in Sweetwater.



3) Analog in a World of Digital
– Walking onto the SXSW conference trade floor can be a jarring experience upon first entry. Your senses have to take a moment and adjust to the lights, the sea of VR headsets and every type of digital experience you can ask for. What made Westworld so compelling was the fact that it was the polar opposite.

The only technology was what you carried into the park. No Tesla charging stations here! Having a completely analog experience that heightened your natural senses was different than tricking your mind with ever-evolving synthetic realities.

4) Personalization – From choosing the black or white hat to the letter you receive at the post office to the final note you receive via e-mail and mobile, the experience was tailored to include personal elements at every turn. I even sent an IRL postcard from the Sweetwater post office.

5) Immersive within immersive  – In addition to the incredible sets and actors who memorized hundreds of pages of dialogue, it was the experience within the experience that really won the day. Whether it was trying to find additional clues, like a 3D Westworld maze map or a mysterious keyfob to unlocking a locked door with the season 2 premiere date as the code to a secret room in the already locked secret room.

The level of detail spent creating an immersive experience within an immersive experience was Inception level “dream within a dream” scenarios.

6) Secluded – The fact that the experience was 20 miles outside of Austin and in a very secluded location added to the experience. As you get closer and further outside of the city you were not quite sure what to expect and caused anticipation to build.

7) Partnership – How I got into WestWorld was through their partnership with Lyft. While we tweeted at Westworld via social, they responded with a cryptic response about Lyft having the code.

This promotional partnership with Lyft, who had 10 luxury vehicles that starting running special “winners” to the park between 2 and 10 pm, was a great way to drive usage for Lyft and rewarding those who looked for the code.

8) Socially Engaged – Our gateway into Westworld started with Twitter as I previously mentioned. The near-real-time engagement via the @WestworldHBO handle was very well done. Kudos to the Westworld social team as they nailed the tone and persona of the property that helped to cut through the noise of SXSW and focused our efforts towards engaging with the Westworld experience.

9) Limited Time Only – The activation only lasted a few days, which really amped up the conversation and desire to enter the experience. I had friends in Wilton, Connecticut asking if I was able to get into Westworld. Word of the activation spread well beyond the SXSW Interactive Austin crowd.

10) Post Event Follow-up – In addition to the personalized content during the experience, this morning I received a final communication welcoming me “back to reality” with a personalized letter that was optimized for sharing via social. The best aspect was my letter was different than my two co-workers.

I have been asked many times, what does it take for a brand to breakthrough at SXSW? I would say a combination of the 10 factors outlined above is a good starting point, but rarely have I come across an activation that went a perfect 10 for 10. That was #SXSWestworld

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

SXSW 2018 Sony Wow Studio

Over the past few years, one of the most consistent brands across trade shows (CES, MWC, SXSW) has been Sony.

I have been impressed with their strategy to evolve experience interfaces beyond mobile through voice, vision and touch.

At SXSW 2018, Sony’s experience is a showcase of multi-modal interfaces. From interactive projectors, AR & VR experiences, Robotic assistant Xperia Hello!, CES 2018 Star Aibo, and one of the weirdest yet immersive experiences I have been a part of at SXSW.

The Wow Studio is a preview of what’s to come as our environment becomes more of an interface and technology begins to adapt to us vs. us adapting to the technology.

I have experienced the Xperia Hello! At previous shows. The Xperia Hello! Is Sony’s version of a robotic assistant. Think of an echo style form factor with a 4.55 inch screen. The robot assistant responds to voice, gesture and facial expressions and one of the primary use cases I personally tried was tied to Skype and F2F communication.

One of the most unique experiences was the Sonic Surf VR experience. This was a fully immersive experience that did not require a headset. This is a new technology that will allow creators to make sound appear to move on its own. See below for a sample of the experience.

Audio as an extension of Enhanced Reality (AI + AR/VR/MR) is one of the key themes I have observed so far.

One of the final experiences was upon exit of the Wow Studio. This section featured a digital message/graffiti wall. The unique aspect is that the experience was driven by an interactive projector light based interface to create the experience.

Here is the evolving digital artwork.

Sony continues to provide a preview for how consumer centric experiences will continue to evolve. From AI & Robotics to gesture and touch based interfaces to the rise of enhanced audio in support of spatial experiences tying physical and digital together. Sony delivered on the promise of the “Wow Studio”.

On to the next experience…. Westworld

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

SXSW 2018 – Augmented Reality Audio

As the experiences for SXSW 2018 begin to kickoff, one of the first stops was at the Bose Augmented Reality Audio experience.

The experience starts with a video outlining various use cases tied to voice based Augmented Reality.

The trick here though is that there is not a visual aspect to the experience. It’s all driven based on various inputs such as location tags, GPS and extended phone functions.

By wearing the glasses, you get Audio queues such as reviews of a restaurant or landmark simply by looking at an object. The AR aspect is tied to invisible environmental queues that activate experiences.

This could be an interesting bridge to full AR experiences as consumers may accept pervasive voice as an extension into enhanced reality that integrates voice, vision and touch.

The form factor felt more like Snapchat Spectacles and less Google Glass. The push for form and fashion is key for mass adoption.

Looking forward to the SDK this fall as my questions were less about the hardware and more about the location tagging and environmental triggers where there will be a third party dependency.

On to the next experience!

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

WMD Podcast: Balancing Personal & Professional Branding

This is the second part of my interview session with the Words of Mass Disruption podcast with Eric Hanes.

During this discussion, we dive into finding the right balance between personal and professional branding , 4 steps to a better digital you and the importance of creating and sharing content,  and adding value to your professional networks.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS EPISODE

1. How important it is to develop and share your own perspective and point of view.

2. Be open with your network connections.

3. Find the right balance of Personal Brand (the Digital You) and your Professional Brand (the hand that feeds you).

4. Diversify your network.

Here was part one of the podcast discussing all facets of Artificial Intelligence.

WMD Podcast via iTunes

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Follow Eric Hanes @WordsDisruption

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. 

Follow The Epsilon Agency Innovation Team:

Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Steve Harries @Steve_Harries22

Ian Beacraft @IanBcraft

Jeremy Olken @JeremyOlken

 

Xbox One X Project Scorpio Early Unboxing

I received a nice surprise as there was a special package waiting for me in my office. It was an early release version of the Xbox One X Project Scorpio edition.

The Xbox One X officially launches on the 7th of November. I captured the full unboxing, setup, and discuss what’s included and the features of the console including a look at the system after start-up.

A special thank you to Brent at Xbox and Chris from TripleClix for the great surprise.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

In The News: iPhone X & Augmented Reality

I had an opportunity to discuss the upcoming release of the iPhone 8 & X with AdExchanger. From machine learning to augmented reality, here is the full commentary.

Is Apple becoming more data-driven with the growing focus on Siri and personalization? 

Machine Learning was one of the most prominent topics during the keynote event. Apple conveyed that Siri is evolving and the experience will not only be personal, but more contextual in its interactions.

Where Apple truly shines is the interoperability of its platform. Having deep integration gives new insight into datasets, opening up the door for more predictive and seamless experiences.

And what impact will that have for advertisers?  Is Apple becoming a friendlier place for advertisers?

The announcement from Apple today is another signal that advertising will continue to evolve from contextual content to contextual experiences. With ARKit, Apple is enabling advertisers to tap into new effect-based marketing opportunities where it’s more about enabling experiences versus creating them. 

 
What do you think about the rumored dedicated AI chip inside iPhones? How are marketers meant to think about it?
 

Dedicated AI chips are a critical component to off-load processing for advanced AI activities, such as facial recognition and real-time machine learning functions within the handsets.

As marketers, we have to expand beyond desktop and mobile to consider a multimodal approach that includes computer vision, touch, voice and immersive computing such as AR & VR.

Apple technology will continue to evolve to support new canvases for marketers to connect with consumers, and it’s important to stay in front of new opportunities that become available.

Is Apple behind Echo, Google, etc. in the voice races?
Both Amazon and Google support third-party development to create experiences for marketers within their voice ecosystems, which is step one.

For Apple to stay competitive alongside Echo and Google in the voice races, we may see Siri evolve to support more skills and actions that can be driven by marketers.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
The full AdExchanger article is here.

BlackFin360 on Amazon Alexa

I received great news this morning that the BlackFin360 Alexa Skill passed certification and was published to the skill store.

Now you can access key insights and information via Alexa by enabling the BlackFin360 skill. Simply search “BlackFin360” on the amazon home page or enable via the Amazon Skills Store here.

Screenshot 2017-07-13 10.37.06

Some of the key intents of the skill are as follows:

In the coming weeks I will be adding an RSS feed of the blog content and evaluating YouTube playlists and the Echo Show. I would appreciate if you could enable and rate the skill. Thanks in advance.

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Find BlackFin360 via Amazon Alexa

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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5 Midyear Trends to Watch in 2017

2017 has seen a rapid acceleration of technology trends. Of the 50+ trends observed from CES, MWC, SXSW, F8, Google I/O and more, here are the top 5 midyear trends that I am closely monitoring heading into 2018.

1) MOBILE FIRST TO AI FIRST

For the past few years, Facebook, Google and other industry heavy weights have proclaimed to be mobile first organizations. Now at the midpoint of 2017 we are seeing shifts from mobile first to AI first. Google recently announced their intent to redefine their core products around AI research, tools and applied AI.

Through 2017 Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly transforming business, products and services. A primary fuel for ML/AI is data. Understanding how to create actionable data centric AI experiences is critical to drive growth in 2017 and beyond.

2) MULTIMODAL INTERFACES

Conversational experiences have been a primary topic of discussion in 2017. From bots to voice based experiences, to computer vision and object recognition, expanding solutions beyond mobile and desktop has been a major trend through the first part of the year.

The shift towards AI first means text and visual tied to mobile and desktop are not enough to evolve the future of interaction.  As 2017 continues to unfold, we will see more voice + paired visual experiences come to market where voice is driving a visual companion experience to further enhance Alexa Skills and Google Actions.

3) CAMERA AS A PLATFORM

As marketers begin to shift their attention from Millennials to Gen-Z, strategies in the first half of 2017 are shifting towards leveraging the camera as a platform.

From Snapchat’s ever evolving lenses to Facebook’s newly announced Frames & AR studios, major industry players are taking a core native behavior that is all about empowerment for the consumer and building new solutions that will integrate real-time data, location and object recognition to create new forms of effect based marketing.

4) RISE OF THE PROXY WEB

The first part of 2017 has shown the first major steps towards the rise of the proxy web. The proxy web is predicated on systems taking over core day-to-day human functions and becoming agents on our behalf. One of the big steps towards this in 2017 was the recent launch by Google of Google Lens.

Google Lens combines the power of Google Assistant and provides the ability to overlay computer vision, which will serve as the basis for contextual augmented reality that links to various services, from purchasing, to content, to predictive reservations based on traffic and other environmental factors. Voice has led the way in 2017, 2018 will be the year of computer vision powered experiences.

5) DEMOCRATIZATION OF IMMERSIVE COMPUTING (VR/AR)

One of the drawbacks to mass adoption of virtual reality has been tied to how isolating an experience can be with limited abilities to share “what’s happening” Both Google and Facebook realize that adoption is closely to accessibility and the ability to share experiences. 2017 has seen a major shift towards the driving the democratization of virtual reality.

The key to driving adoption at scale is to empower consumers, developers and other 3rd parties to create experiences. From empowering the creation of user generated 360 degree content to co-viewing, casting, capturing and sharing VR content. It’s important for brand marketers to pay attention to how consumers interact with these experiences and the rate at which they are creating their own virtual content.

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10 Years of BlackFin Blogging

April 22nd, 2007 marks the date of the first blog post under what was then TheBlackFin.com. Now 10 years and 456 posts later the blog has morphed into what it is today.

Here is a shot from the old TheBlackFin blog. 

Starting and maintaining a blog has proven to be one of the most important decisions and invaluable assets in my career development and progression over the past decade.

By the simple act of formulating perspectives on various industry topics, it served as a foundational knowledge base to capture trends and evaluate shifts tied to consumer behavior.

Over time it served as a timeline to measure and gauge key technology inflection points and the impact of disruptive and emerging technologies.

Knowing that I had to create content changed my curation behaviors tied to industry news and new technology. My focus shifted from simply consuming content to analyzing topics and looking for connections as the foundation for digital strategy.

I joined Twitter the same month I started my blog in 2007.

Now, the role of my blog has shifted to sharing thought leadership with agency clients, a reflection of industry media commentary, and speaking engagements. But regardless of how much the focus evolves over the next ten years at it’s core the blog will still be about aligning experience + perspective + prediction.

My strategic approach developed through blogging was a key component to recently being named by Advertising Age as a Marketing Technology Trailblazer. 

Beyond blogging, here is additional advice for those just starting their career.

Have a POV – Regardless of platform have a spot to capture your thoughts and focus on 2-3 territories in your industry of interest and begin commenting and creating your voice and perspective.

Build a Network – Your most valuable professional asset is your network. Be diligent in meeting movers and shakers in your industry and seek out those who are crafting a narrative in their industry and emulate their approach until you refine your own.

Mentor & Sponsor – Having an internal advocate is incredibly important when it comes to career advancement. It’s not enough to keep your head down and work hard. You need to work hard and have an internal sponsor who will champion your advancement.

You will also need a mentor, preferably someone who is not in your current organization but knows your industry to provide a bigger picture perspective and guide you through the challenges that will inevitably be a part of career advancement. I have been incredibly lucky and thankful to those who have sponsored and mentored me over the years.

Thank you to the thousands of visitors over the past 10 years. I write to openly share thoughts about the industry and to unravel the connection between emerging technology and it’s impact on human behavior.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

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In The News: Advertising Age Virtual Reality

I recently provided commentary to Advertising Age discussing the potential impact of Facebook shutting down it’s VR studio.

Here is my full commentary:

Facebook shut down its VR studio. What kind of message do you think this sends to marketers, brands?

I take it as a good sign that Facebook is divesting in original content and focusing on external creators. Facebook is betting on the democratization of VR vs. being the originators of content. This holds true to all of their platforms as they are the enablers of the experiences versus the creators of experiences.

Can you explain to our audience why VR isn’t seeing the explosive growth many were predicting two or three years ago?

The barrier to consumption of content through various headsets, and the lack of 360 degree cameras that are readily available to create immersive content, may be why we are not seeing explosive growth. The key for any new technology, especially one like VR is to empower the masses to create their own experiences. This is why we see Facebook shifting towards the camera as the first augmented reality platform, as it’s built on behaviors consumers already engage with.

What do you think we’ll see next from VR?

Democratization of VR is the key to truly unlocking the potential of VR. Once 360 degree cameras are integrated into phones or more readily available we will see acceleration around the creation of VR content. This combined with the rise of more experiences that drive connection, such as Facebook’s VR based Spaces.

Is there an area you feel VR will see growth – near future?

I see more opportunity to redefine how we engage with on demand entertainment and sporting events. Having the ability to control and enhance live sports through contextual hotspots, allowing the consumer to control camera angles, as well as enhanced data to support the experience, such as stats and co-viewing with friends, could be a key growth area for VR.

Anything else that you would like to share?

AR will play key roles in the near future. AR will impact our everyday lives and enhance our environments while VR will shift to more immersive, entertainment and connection with friends and family.

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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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CX Future = Voice + Visual

I have written articles and commented quite a bit about Amazon Alexa and voice based conversational experiences in the media over the past 12 months.

To date there are over 10 million Alexa powered devices in consumer homes and that number is about to increase significantly with Alexa Voice Services integrating in everything from cars such as Ford Sync 3 system to mobile handsets.

Here is an example of Alexa integrated into the Ford Sync 3 system rolling out in various Ford models this fall. 

Regarding Alexa skills, skills are to Alexa like apps are to mobile, when I first met with the Amazon Alexa partner team a year ago there were barely 1,000 skills published. As of today there are over 10,000 with that number continuing to increase.

In addition to skills the shift towards voice based experiences has already begun. In 2014, voice search traffic was negligible. Today it exceeds 10% of all search traffic and virtual assistants exceed 50B voice searches per month.

That number is going to continue to accelerate as it’s projected by 2020 to be over 200 billion searches per month will be done with voice. Quickly voice will be a key horizontal channel and central to a converged user experience.

Screenshot 2017-03-15 21.41.59

What most don’t realize though is that while most experiences today are zero UI/voice only experiences, the next evolution of voice based systems will be voice + paired visual experiences.

This will ultimately be driven by new hardware that integrates screens, but initially will be driven by responsive web experiences that are powered by Alexa and hands free.

Soon virtual assistants such as the Sony XPERIA Agent shown here at MWC 2017 will have integrated screens to enhance voice + visual.

Voice based skills will be able to showcase information visually by aligning the voice intents with visual queues to create a voice controlled experience that is seamless and enhances the experience.

From highlighting dynamic content to video content, an Alexa skill can easily answer a query and showcase solutions that highlight complex solutions or highly visual elements such as what a recipe should actually look like vs. having to visualize it in ones mind.

Visual queues on the page can also enhance what a user can do with Alexa such as highlighting other related intents such as repeat, help, next steps etc… via a responsive web experience.

This is one of the challenges with pure voice experiences as the user doesn’t always know what their options are to to further engage different aspects of a given skill.

Voice + Visual can also enhance long term engagement which is currently the biggest barrier of Alexa experiences. By considering visual + voice content it is feasible to extend into more entertainment mediums that can be controlled and enhanced via voice.

Voice + Visual also has an impact on the type of data that can be gleaned from progressive profiling and opens up new ways to deploy existing content assets into a system based/virtual assistant driven journey.

I have literally seen the future through a first of it’s kind example of voice (Alexa) + visual (Responsive web) and it is mind blowing. I can’t show it publicly yet but it will reframe your approach to voice based strategy.

Will update this post once the 1st voice + paired visual experience skill is published shortly with visuals.

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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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