In 2017, VR and AR took giant leaps in progress and development, showing the potential for these emerging technologies to influence nearly every market sector, from music, entertainment, gaming, and media, to heathcare, training, and NGO storytelling. At CES the demos and presentations will be kicked into high gear not only at the Gaming & Virtual Reality Marketplace, but from hardware players and major studios like 21st Century Fox's Innovation Lab. On the AR front, it's still too soon for Magic Leap to make a splash, but there will be plenty of demos to see and conversations taking place, including the All Eyes on Augmented Reality (Trending Techs track) and The Augmented Reality Experience (Digital Hollywood track) sessions.
Not technically a part of CES, the fourth annual VR Fest is also taking place in Vegas, January 9-12. Included in the programming is an online game and film competition, VR/AR Academy panels on January 10th that feature speakers Alina Mikhaleva, Co-founder of Spherica, Annie Lukowski, CEO of Vanishing Point Media, Sarah Hill from Story-Up, Morgan Mercer and Louisa Spring from Vantage Point, and Ryan Pulliam, CMO/Co-founder of Specular Theory. For those looking to dive into learning, VR workshops will be taking place on January 11th at University of Phoenix. Full information and schedule is at https://virtualrealityfestival.com/. Separate registration is required.
Artificial intelligence also made great strides in the past year while causing major concerns about privacy, inclusion vs bias, and its long-term impact on humanity and our workforce. This topic is pervasive within so many industries, so I'm looking forward to see when it arises during CES panel discussions. There's also a dedicated AI track presented by Robotic Trends, but unfortunately, Elon Musk will not being weighing in on the topic (ha ha).
CES 2018 will be the typical flurry of press releases and product announcements, with two days dedicated to media demos, including Sony's product announcement live stream (Monday, January 8, 5pm PST). There will even more 8K flatscreen TVs hitting the exhibit floor, and while impressive (saw a few last year...wow), content wise most are still catching up with the delivery 4K movies.
The tech version of the Detroit auto show is expected to present progress made in the area of connected cars with Qualcomm showcasing how autonomous vehicles will work effectively within smart cities and how consumers will adapt while also addressing security concerns (still can't help but wonder about Rolling Stone reporter, Michael Hastings, car crash). Driverless car demos will be a big draw, including Lyft's partnership with Aptiv, enabling CES attendees to request a driverless car experience to over 20 destinations (it will be located in the same pick up area as last year, the Gold Lot across from the convention center).
One thing I hope we see in terms of real progress at CES' automotive marketplace is finally being done with the use of booth babes, a sexist and antiquated practice that was stunning to still see in 2017. Ford for one, especially after the company's continual complacency on addressing sexual harassment in its factories for decades, should heed some common sense. We'll see how that goes.
Digital Hollywood returns to CES with another packed program of leaders in the entertainment and tech space covering the latest developments in VR/AR, advertising and branding, the growth of OTT and the future of television, and leading all areas with a mobile-first strategy. There is an additional registration cost to attend.
If you're looking for sessions already included with your CES badge, here are my picks:
Monday, January 8
Consumer Preferences for Personalized Content Viewing (Research Summit),
LVCC, North Hall, N257
Panelists from Twentieth Century Fox, Sony Entertainment, Omnicom, and CTA will chat about how they’re utilizing the best strategies to deliver content curated for each audience member and how much annoying disruption people are willing to put up with in the ad-supported content model. Will the topic of Disney’s pending acquisition of Fox come up, including how this M&A deal will impact Hulu? I hope so.
Tuesday, January 9
C Space Storytellers
ARIA, Level 1, Pinyon Ballroom, 10am-4:15pm
C Space returns to CES once again, featuring a number of interesting presentations from tech and content leaders on Tuesday, January 9 and Wednesday, January 10. Expect this to be a mix of more show than tell from a solo presenter along with a moderator environment that pitches tough questions to executives on industry issues.
On the solo front, Facebook’s VP of Product, Fidji Simo, will share what to expect from their video content channel, Watch, this year, and Spotify will present curators that drive fan engagement with music artists. IBM will present their branding and streaming opportunities, with Intel and TBWA Worldwide focusing on how to use creativity to demystify new tech like AI.
The CMO panel will include one of my favorite advocates for busting the old ad model, Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard, and he’ll be joined by Deloitte, Panasonic, and Turner, with an Economist digital editor leading questions on how best to blend evolving technologies like AR, VR, and AI with data analytics to track engagement and success.
Ajit Pai CANCELS Appearance at Insights from the FTC
Tech East, LVCC, North Hall, N257, 11:30am-12:30am
The U.S. government employee that people love to hate (no, not that one…or that one), Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, WAS scheduled to show his smiley face in public at a tech conference, but has backed out last minute. Was it the petition signed by over 100,000 calling on Pai to quit following the FCC’s vote, led by Pai, to kill net neutrality? Rumor has it Pai received death threats, but because the agency doesn't comment on security issues, it remains a rumor.
Pai has been removed from the CES event page but it seems the session is still on, leaving Gary Shapiro from CTA to lead a “candid” conversation with acting chairperson for the FTC, Maureen K. Ohlhausen. The two plan to tackle “the challenges [the FTC and FCC] face as their agencies navigate the constantly evolving technological landscape.” It will still be interesting to attend and see how the conversation goes in Pai’s absence, especially after what was considered to be a terse statement from the CTA in response to Pai’s cowardly bail, “We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience.”
The FCC chairman may be able hide now but he can't run away from a legal fight by the Internet Association, which announced on Friday that it was ready to put its lawyer money and might into preserving net neutrality. The group's members included the biggest in the online biz, including Google, Facebook, and Netflix.
2018 Preview: FCC and FTC Commissioner Roundtable
Tech East, LVCC, North Hall, N253, 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Later that afternoon, the FCC commissioner who has a brain and a conscience, Mignon Clyburn, will have her say along with other members from the FCC and FTC to discuss the future of spectrum allocation, 5G, privacy, IoT, and one would hope, whether Congress or even state’s AGs will make any moves to preserve net neutrality.
Tuesday, January 10
Variety Entertainment Summit at CES
Aria, Level 1, Bristlecone 4
This all-day summit checks all the boxes and looks to be well worth spending all of Wednesday, January 10, at the Aria, saving your feet while hearing from TV network, technology. Brand storytelling strategies will be shared by Turner, Volvo, Spotify, and TiVo, the latter of which introduced a new “Next-Gen Platform” ahead of CES designed to help “pay TV operators to better keep up with the changes in how consumers prefer to watch television today.”
I’m hoping Janko Roettgers, Senior Silicon Valley Correspondent for Variety, makes time to ask Bob Gruters, Group Director, Global Marketing Solutions for Facebook, about brand safety and the media company’s plans to address fake news and Russian-esque ads during the short, 15-minute “Amplifying Your Brand with Facebook.” Not holding my breath.
Last year at CES, Live Nation announced their plans for VR/360-based content, including the ON STAGE series on Hulu. This year that conversation continues during the “We’re Going Live! Thrills with Experiential Tech” session, featuring Live Nation, Samsung, Twitter, and Discovery VR.
Reimagining Television: A Conversation With Hulu and Turner
Tech South, Monte Carlo, Park Theater, 3pm-4pm
A hot topic for 2017 that will continue to take center stage this year is the area of content streaming, with Hulu talking about their big win with “Handmaids Tale,” along with what strategies are in the works to appeal to today’s “entertainment-on-demand loving audience,” how the future of TV will continue to evolve with shifting business models and audience expectations, and where advertising, branding, and marketing will best fit within our modern digital entertainment ecosystem.
Speaking of streaming content, two years ago Netflix's keynote address featured Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos speaking about their success and new programming, and by the end of the 48 or so minutes talk, Netflix had flipped the on switch for #NetflixEvery streaming into 130 new countries simultaneusly. At CES 2018, the Los Gatos/Hollywood company is visibly absent within CES' 2018 programming about the future of TV, no doubt busy spending that $6 billion (or is it $7 billion?) production budget by continually releasing new film and TV series...or fending off Apple acquisition rumors.
C Space Storyteller
ARIA, Level 1, Pinyon Ballroom, 9:30am-2:45pm
Also on Wednesday, conveniently located in the same ARIA hotel, C Space continues with Google’s Allan Thygesen discussing how brands can win today’s consumers with Keith Bryan from Best Buy. Knotch will chat with big brands, including Bank of America and Heineken, about marrying marketing budgets with data companies to deliver on KPIs, and Disney’s Jimmy Pitaro will present how the entertainment conglomerate continues to pursue new ways to connect fans and families with their favorite stories. OATH, Verizon, and RYOT will share how VR and live streaming are becoming even more pervasive in the world of sports.
Thursday, January 11
Where Music and Technology Collide
ARIA, Level 1, Pinyon Ballroom, 10:15am-2pm
This mini-program will bring together brands like Lyft to discuss new models for music brand partnerships with UMG and United Talent Agency, the music industry’s revenue climb as a result of streaming, and how AR, VR, and AI are expected to reshape music, including leaders from Live Nation, Qualcomm, and Pandora.
Of course, there will be a bazillion demos taking place during this first major tech and biz conference of the year, and I’ll be reporting what I see as it happens. Follow me on @kaffeinebuzz on Twitter and Instagram.com/kaffeinebuzz to follow along.