Layers of influence reign at CES

Layers of Influence at CES 2010 (Lori Schwartz)Imagine a world where any screen you come into contact with has the capability to play multiple streams of content that are contextually relevant to you, to your gender, location and purchase habits.  Imagine that this content could take the form of video with additional layers of text, graphics or audio.  Then picture a powerful 4G network, with 80 megabits of data being delivered with HD quality video and 3D enhancements. Data would be fed back and forth to respond to interactions and navigation would be more primal, responding to touch and movement. Marketers would have a field day with targeting content based on demographics right down to the individual.  And imagine if the foundation of this world was presented to you at a yearly consumer electronics trade show…

While there were no earth shattering products or mind-blowing reveals at this year’s CES, the world I described above has been set in motion. Never before have so many consumer electronic companies all committed to embracing the same technology trends in such a way that the dividing line between competitive offerings is hard to see. All this sets the stage for what I’d like to call “layers of influence.” 

The opportunity to “layer” on relevant content,  information  and offers based on who your audience is, where they physically are and in what point of the consideration or point of purchase funnel they occupy. On the show floor, the beginnings of these layers were revealed:

At the Microsoft booth, they focused on the evolution of Mediaroom, their IPTV software platform.  Currently licensed to 3rd party operators, Media room will now “power the cloud” to enable TV services across all MS devices, meaning you’ll be able to move a piece of content around “legally” to your Windows 7 computer, your  phone, media center or Xbox.  While consumers have been finding ways to do this anyway, MS wants to provide “layers of value” to anything you do within their solution set.  The cloud will now hold the license to your content and it can be watched anywhere.

Setting the stage for interacting with the cloud-based content is Windows 7, with the capability to for “multi touch,” which allows users  to interact with the a device by placing two or more fingers directly onto the surface of the screen. Proving that context is everything, Windows 7 will respond to what device you connect to it.   With “Device Stage,” the screen will show you contextually relevant content, a “layer” of information based on that device.  Device stage could potentially create another channel to reach consumers through their phone, camera or other USB devices.

And of course  the hottest topic of the show wasn’t on the show floor, Project Natal, which will leverage gaming through motion control.

At the LG booth, they elevated the discussion of  4G, with a demo of  LTE (Long Term Evolution), Verizon and AT&T’s 4G network.  Four Streams of HD content were played simultaneously on one screen.  Think about the possibilities of information and data that could be shared in that scenario.

Most of the major players were demonstrating their connected TVs, highlighting their “TV widget” solutions.   With a broadband connection directly to the monitor, widgets bring branded and relevant content directly to your living room(LG’s is called ‘Netcast’, Panasonic’s solution is Vieracast, Vizio is VIA and Sony’s is their Bravia Internet Link solution).  “Skype” was the hottest widget to be demonstrated at LG and Panasonic;  a two way conversation in your living room, powered by a 4G connection, a broadband enabled monitor with a built in video camera and an HD monitor to show your best and worst face.

3D was in every booth –most solutions required glasses and those that didn’t demonstrated autostereoscopic 3D (check out Alioscopy) which requires you to stand at a certain angle to the TV and is currently expensive to implement due to the hardware costs on the monitor.  There’s a lot of debate about the true value of 3D, with sports and gaming enthusiasts leading the charge.  From a marketer’s perspective, being able to educate and influence your audience with additional content and detail about a product will be the real opportunity in a 3D world.  Look for it to pop in Digital Out of Home scenarios.  Augmented reality, the ability to add a 3D asset or any type of asset to a 2D stream with the use of glasses or a camera, is another example of a layer.  Early demonstrations of augmented reality have been on the gimmicky side but down the road, it can be a powerful information delivery system.

On the eReader side, Sprint’s Skiff, the new eReader operating system Blio and the dual screen reader “Entourage Edge” by EnTourage Systems, Inc,  were the buzz on the show floor.  Skiff and Blio were hard to find, but Entourage won an Innovation award and always had a crowd at the both.  Featuring an e-ink screen which displays textbook pages which can be underlined and annotated and a LCD screen, which can be used to receive content from publishers and other web service providers.

Android was another star of the show.  Motorola’s booth was revitalized with demonstrations of their Motoblur.  Android is poised to power the mobile device set with tailored devices whose applications “layer” on relevancy for consumer’s lifestyles.

And on everybody’s lips was the debate about the new Apple tablet.  Apple has a knack for being the buzz at CES without ever being at CES.  The question for everybody, what will it be, a big iPhone, a big eReader?…and how will any of these devices bridge the gap between “reader” and web services?  The next question for debate, who will win the 5 inch to 12 inch screen war?