The Future Of TV Is Apps, According to Apple

During Wednesday’s press event, Apple finally debuted a new Apple TV set-top box that aims to transform the way people watches TV. Equipped with a brand-new iOS 9-based operating system dubbed “tvOS,” the new Apple TV comes with App Store and Siri-enabled universal search across content platforms. Apple also debuted a new touchpad remote that doubles as a video game controller, further pushing Apple TV into the gaming market. The addition of App Store offers brands a gateway to infiltrate the living room space via branded TV app. Apple demoed several brands already developing their TV apps, including fashion e-retailer Gilt, Twitter’s livestreaming app Periscope, accommodation-booking app Airbnb, as well as media content providers like MLB.

Stay tuned for the Lab’s in-depth Fast Forward feature on the brand implications of the new Apple TV platform.

iPad Pro Gives Brands More Screen Space To Impress

The much-anticipated new iPad confirmed the pre-announcement speculations, as Apple unveiled the brand new iPad Pro that boasts a stunning 12.9-inch multi-touch screen, capable of running two full-size apps in profile mode side by side. This will no doubt give brands more space to impress their audience on tablets with stunning graphics and more information.

iPad Pro boasts a new A9X processor, making it faster than 80% of the portable PCs sold in the past year, according to Apple. It also supports a new detachable smart keyboard a la Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s first stylus named Apple Pencil for more nuanced interactions. Nearly as powerful as a regular laptop, iPad Pro signals the next stage of mobile devices’ takeover of consumer screen time. If your brand hasn’t adapted to mobile yet, you need to start developing a mobile strategy right now.

Apple Watch Gets More Apps and Fashionable Watch Bands

Apple kicked off Wednesday’s event with a showcase of its newest product, the Apple Watch. With the new watchOS 2 (first announced at WWDC event back in June) coming next week with Watch-native apps, Apple demoed various new Watch apps such as Facebook Messenger, GoPro, and healthcare app AirStrip to showcase the versatility that its first wearable product gains through third-party apps.

Moreover, Apple continues to converge tech with fashion as it collaborated with Hermes on new models with exclusive bands and watch faces, as well as releasing new colorways for the Apple Watch Sport. The company is also reportedly prepping its first exclusive content in the form of fashion network ‘Made 2 Measure’.

Event Recap: District Dialogues – The Future of Media

On August 27th, the IPG Media Lab attended a District Dialogue Meet Up on the future of media. The panel included Chelsea Emery, Deputy Editor of BBC Capital at BBC Worldwide; Jessica Manis, Digital Associate Director at Optimedia and; Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at Newscred.

There was a lively discussion about where the ad industry is headed and the best ways to reach audiences in the future. All the panelists (and most of the audience) agreed that it is becoming increasingly important to add value to consumers and create content that users will choose to engage in. Audiences are already less responsive to and tolerant of traditional banner advertisements and this trend will continue going forward. The panelists believe that banner ads will never go away entirely although they agree that they are becoming less effective, especially with most browsers ending support for flash and enabling ad blockers.

Another topic that was discussed at length was the fact that the lines between editorial and advertorial are getting increasingly blurred. It was interesting to hear the panelists discuss this separation between church and state. Those on the editorial side were adamant that the line must be drawn and that journalistic integrity must be preserved. Those on the marketing side believed that although the distinction is important, it was not quite as essential. They argued that great content could be created even when paid for by a marketer. Interestingly, one member of the editorial side of the discussion did acknowledge that her salary is funded entirely by ad revenues.

The final trend discussed was the fact that the power to create content is shifting from big publishers to consumers. Social media is allowing anyone with access to the internet to become a source of information and thought-leader. The distribution channels allow individuals to be heard on a much wider scale than ever before and these avenues are only going to become magnified as technology brings people closer together. A member of the audience summed it up perfectly: “Content is king but distribution is queen and she wears the pants in the relationship.” The advertising landscape is certainly shifting in many ways and marketers must adapt to provide value to consumers and take advantage of rising distribution models.


Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #63

On Wednesday, August 12th, the Media Lab attended the New Jersey Tech Meetup at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. This monthly event is organized as a way for entrepreneurs from New Jersey to network and inspire each other.

A handful of startups were chosen to present their business ideas to the attendees. First to the stage was Fusar, a company that creates wearable hardware for action-sports enthusiasts. Their products include clip-on trackers that fit on helmets, handlebar controls, and an “Eyes up”-display helmet. Because the primary function of this equipment is safety, it seems unlikely that Fusar will incorporate an open-source app store that brands can leverage, as this may be seen as a distraction to someone driving a motorcycle. Next to present was Cosmic, a company that powers the pipes that enable native eCommerce. This technology allows vendors to seamlessly offer products across the web for purchase without having to drive consumers to a separate site to buy. Finally, Gravy presented their solution for an easier way for businesses to purchase and send gifts to clients and employees. The winner of the night was Cosmic, as selected by the audience.

The main event of the night was a fireside chat with Gary Vaynerchuk. Mr. Vaynerchuk covered a wide range of topics including how he makes business decisions, his general outlook on life, and his life goal of buying the New York Jets. Mr. Vaynerchuk has created a massive brand for himself as an entrepreneur, investor, author, and Internet personality. He grew his parents liquor store from an annual revenue of $3MM to $45MM business in six years, and then in 2006, leveraged a little site called YouTube to become a public figure among the tech community. He has since launched VaynerMedia and VaynerRSE, the latter of which he is in the midst of raising a $150MM round for 10-20 investments. When asked if he had any regrets, he promptly responded no, before relenting that he probably should not have passed twice on Uber’s angel round. Mr. Vaynerchuk’s chat was inspirational and the Media Lab wishes him good fortune in purchasing the Jets from Woody Johnson.

Event Recap: District Dialogue – Future of Transportation

Last week, the IPG Media Lab attended a panel discussion around the future of transportation. Panel members, including founders of car-sharing services, venture capitalists, and a public transportation guru, addressed multiple topics such as car connectivity, self-driving capabilities, and security. From a marketing standpoint, this territory is ripe for opportunity. However, real world applications won’t be implemented until cars are more capable of driving themselves, thus shifting a driver’s attention from the road and towards the augmented windshields and screens within the vehicle. The panelists agreed that we are only 5-10 years away from this reality.

The primary barrier to autonomous cars is not the technology (which already exists in agriculture and mining vehicles) but the physical infrastructure and government regulations that the cars and manufacturers must navigate. Steps have already been taken to challenge legal boundaries and push for more flexibility for innovation. For example, Uber successfully fought off the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s attempt to limit new driver applications in New York City earlier last month, which set a precedent that regulations cannot impede customer experience or value.

There are companies that are already working to create branding opportunities within vehicles. Two companies that are attempting to crack into this space are and Automatic. They are creating devices that plug into a car’s data port so the user can access apps and in-car WiFi. Such devices incorporate platforms for developers to build apps that are connected to the car and can also be accessed via mobile devices. Brands could potentially align with app developers to create unique user experiences within vehicles.

During the panel discussion, there was one tongue-in-cheek comment made that cars are essentially “computers with wheels.” Although this comment was made in jest, it speaks to the wide range of capabilities for brands to reach users in cars. As cars become more autonomous, drivers will become passengers and their attention will shift from operating the vehicle to operating systems. Brands will be able to collect and utilize actionable data to reach consumers on the go.

Event Recap: ARNY & The Future of Augmented Reality

During the week of July 27th, the Lab attended two events that focused on augmented reality (AR). Many topics were addressed including commercial adoption, industrial application, and marketing implications. There was a general consensus among the participants in “The Future of Augmented Reality” panel that the best use case for AR is education. It can be used to enhance a teacher’s lesson plan or train medical residents for surgical procedures without the need for expensive training facilities.

The State Of Binaural AR
When people think of augmented reality, they mostly focus on the visual aspects of the technology. In truth, audio is also an essential part of a person’s environment and can be augmented as well. Hooke is a company that is aiming to commercialize binaural recording on a large scale. Unlike 3DIO, which requires a large recording device, Hooke’s flagship product is a pair of Bluetooth headphones with built-in microphones, which allows it to record audio binaurally in the same way that human ears capture sound in their surrounding environment. Although the product itself is not bulky and minimally invasive, convincing consumers of the need of binaural recordings remains a major adoption barrier.

What Brands Should Do
There are currently in-market options that demonstrate the potential of AR but no products or services that are easily accessible. As of today, AR products are generally too bulky, too expensive, or not comprehensive enough for mass adoption. Nevertheless, better solutions could arrive within 5-10 years, the panelists said.

Therefore, brands that are willing to experiment now to see how they fit into the AR space will be in a much better position when the time comes. For example, it is not far-fetched to think that standard brick and mortar stores will enhance the shopping experience by layering product info directly over physical objects. Furthermore, combining consumer behavior data with AR allows brands to make purchase recommendations, surface relevant promotions at opportune times, and create a personalized shopping experience.

Event Recap: Product Hunt NYC – Invisible Apps

On Wednesday night, the Lab attended a Product Hunt NYC Meetup on service apps that do not have a user interface (Invisible Apps). The session was led by Harry Raymond, the organizer of Product Hunt and co-founder of Swig, a SMS-based service to discover beers and spirits. Four startups were featured in the session, including: Larry, SMS-based law advice; Alfred, text-based concierge service to help cross off items from your to-do list; Stefan’s Head, the first SMS-based retail brand; and xdotai, an AI personal assistant to help you schedule meetings via email. The founders did not give demos of their products but instead gave a brief background on launching their startups and then shared some lessons they had learned thus far.

Christian, the business development manager from Alfred, illustrated the difficulty of a truly on-demand service where a user can get anything at any time. Some companies that attempt to take this on have failed due to the inability to fulfill numerous and outlandish requests. In order to differentiate from those predecessors, Alfred offers an automatic recurring service as opposed to always-on on demand. This way, a user has their personal “Alfred” show up at an assigned time and date each week and handles all the requests that had come in throughout the week. This allows the company to vet and keep a stable of trained employees who have set schedules as opposed to a fleet of contractors that are not necessarily equipped for the jobs at hand.

As more people attempt to streamline their app usage, invisible apps that can be accessed via SMS, email, or voice commands have the potential to become more and more prevalent. From a marketing perspective, as users change their behaviors around how they request services and order products, brands will have to identify unique ways to collaborate with these existing platforms and quite literally, find their voice.

Header image courtesy of Product Hunt NYC’s Meetup page

Event Recap: Digital Intimacy Panel And A Look At The Fashion+Design Accelerator

Last week, Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator held a panel on the latest in wearables and digital intimacy. It focused on the changing landscape in both fashion and technology, and the fact that soon, the two will be indistinguishable.

The panel included some of the fashion tech industry’s most prominent futurists, including founders of Makerbot, Wearable Experiments, and others, discussing the need for proactive thinking and experimentation as technology becomes more intimate than ever. For Paul Amitai of digital fashion imprint Eyebeam, wearables go beyond data: “The material will become the technology itself.” In response, Billie Whitehouse, founder of Wearable Experiments brought up “ingestibles,” implying that we will become the technology.

Privacy was another important theme of the evening. “What happens when everything is transparent?” Makerbot founder Bre Pettis wondered. “The loss of privacy just hasn’t hit at scale.” Pettis thought privacy long gone, but not necessarily in a bad way: if transparency can temper abuses of power, maybe it’s worthwhile. Evan Lazarus of Paxie, a child-tracking wearable, tried to recontextualize privacy, while Whitehouse spoke of a need for a bubble of private data — such as biometric data — that couldn’t be utilized in public or commercial spheres. The Internet of Things needs to be an extension of human empathy, rather than simply computer intelligence.

The event was part of an exhibition called “Cloud Couture,” featuring companies that are pushing the boundaries of sustainable and technological design. Examples included 3D-printed dresses, a shirt that vibrates in response to the bass frequencies of EDM music, environmentally-friendly waterless dye, a sweater that changes color based on emotional feedback.

Event Recap: R/GA Accelerator Demo Day

Today IPG Media Lab attended Demo Day for the R/GA Accelerator powered by Techstars. The event featured 10 emerging “Internet of Things” startups that showcased their solutions in categories such as wearable technology, agriculture, home automation, and enterprise solutions.  Here’s a look at the four most interesting pitches as voted by the Lab team:

  • LISNR ( High-frequency smart tone system that activates second-screen mobile experiences.
  • Filament ( “Sensor as a service” solution that enables manufacturers to turn existing machines and devices into a “connected” infrastructure.
  • Diagenetix ( DNA-based detection kits for the agricultural, water, and food safety markets.
  • Bitfinder ( Connected device that provides real-time analysis of air quality to help everyone understand the air they breathe.