The Immersive Content Renaissance

What the DEVIANTs learned at CES 2016

At SOCIALDEVIANT, content is our game. It’s what we believe drives modern brands. Creative storytelling — backed by strategic rigor—is what we do best.

With that in mind, our founder Marc Landsberg along with DEVIANTs with Bradley Eshbach and Pat O’Rourke headed to Las Vegas last week to see what impact the new technologies and trends showcased at CES will have on what we do.

We are sharing our finding with you in two ways…

  1. The below wrap-up report which includes the major trends that will impact content and storytelling in 2016 AND what the leading social platforms were up to in Vegas.
  2. The DEVIANTs Podcast! We recorded an accompanying summary podcast to make you next commute smarter. Your can listen on SoundCloud.

And now, on with the show…


OVERARCHING TRENDS

This year’s CES felt a little like the tech world’s Bar-mitzvah: Lots of pomp and circumstance being wasted on technology that’s not quite mature enough for prime time. From virtual reality to connected homes to the Internet of Things, general consensus was that much of the technology on the show floor felt beta at best. Even the hoverboards.

That being said, we here at SOCIALDEVIANT tracked some massive changes happening in three distinct areas that we care about: How new technology is changing how we create, consume and enhance content. Here is what we found…

1) Creating Content

Ten years ago any video production included thousands of dollars in equipment and a sizeable crew. Five years ago that began to change with the advent of smartphones that can out shoot a DSLR.

In 2016 we are on the crux of another shift in the content production continuum. Today’s new cameras are cheaper and higher quality. They are attached to GPS enabled drones and self-correcting selfie-sticks. They capture our world with immersive 360 views rather than 16:9 letter boxes.

360 video

As virtual reality headsets shift from early adopters to the general populus, 360-degree videos are one of the first types of content keeping pace with the growing demand for higher quality and immersive content. Easier to create than a traditional VR experience, 360 video gives storytellers a new way to capture an entire scene, guiding people through a story in a way more akin to going on a hike than to scrolling through an endless social stream.

Hardware manufacturers are sprinting toward the future, trying to become the first “standard” for 360 video.

Kodak (yes that Kodak) is one of the first to market with their PIXPRO SP360 4K action cam. Essentially it’s 2 Kodak GoPros strapped together to capture a true 360 degree view without leaving the awkward, blurry tripod in the shot. The setup also excels when attached to a drone.

The Theta Camera, from Ricoh, is essentially the 2016 version of a flip camera. Remember those? Highly portable, the Theta can be place on a tabletop and capture a room with just a single click.

Drones

Chances are, one of your uncles got a drone for Christmas this year. Everyone’s uncle did. But unlike hoverboards, drones continue to have huge impact on content capture.

The Lily Camera made waves this summer when it announced that the drone could autonomously follow its owner, capturing their movements from all kinds of impressive angles. Literally throw it into the air, click a button and it will follow you. Other settings have the Lily fly ahead of you, shooting backwards, or doing loops above your head. Drones are quickly becoming a second cameraman that you don’t actually have to direct. Set it and forget it. At least, that’s the promise. People are interested: Lily just announced $35M in pre-orders.

DJI, the “Apple of Drones” had an obviously large CES presences to share their existing drone fleet. Interestingly though, the most buzzworthy items at their booth involved taking the stabilizing technology developed for their Phantom drone line and injecting it into other hardware.

DJI Osmo Handheld Gimbal — A selfie stick with a brain. The OSMO has a 4k camera, on a rotating head, that you control from your attached smartphone. Automatic stabilization, panoramics, time lapses and panning means handheld video that looks like you invest $10,000 in a steadicam rather than the OSMO’s $650 price tag.

Speaking of Steadicams, the DJI has one. Similar to the OSMO’s internal technology, the Ronin line of products uses GPS assistance to keep your DLSR or high end video camera steady while shooting from the hip. The professional quality rig is impressive, even more so for under $3000.


2) Consuming Content

So, what do we do with all that next level content we are going to be capturing this year? CES 2016 felt like Virtual Reality’s 21-century coming out party. From Samsung to Oculus (Facebook) to HTC to Google, there is a literal land grab happening as manufacturers vie for their technology to be the standard.

Outside of VR, new technology like driverless cars and connected homes are creating new opportunities for content consumption. Think: new user behaviors that alter how people engage with your brand’s content. New opportunities to reach your audiences in more relevant ways.

The Battle for Virtual Reality Platform Supremacy

Both Facebook and YouTube announced support for 360 video this year, within weeks of each other.

Facebook (parlaying their purchase of industry leaders Oculus) think VR is the future of much more than just gaming. They released the first ever 360 movie trailer this fall with Disney for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Google is betting big on VR. With their “VR for all” Cardboard virtual reality viewer, they helped the NYT do their first VR reporting. In fact, YouTube even invited GoPro CEO Matt Woodard to the stage, during their keynote, to announce a partnership aimed at making Youtube the ultimate destination for experiencing 360 video and VR content.

In short: Facebook has the users, Youtube has the attention. But, don’t expect a Blu-ray vs HD-DVD style brawl. There is plenty of room for both players.

New Content Occasions

Much has been said about the continuing growth of audio consumption. Streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora are omnipresent. Podcasts are driving a “renaissance of audio”. If you are on public transit and not wearing headphones, you are the odd man out.

That is interesting enough but one new technology is about to douse this trend with accelerant: Driverless cars

Wait, what? Yes… driverless cars. Think about this: we are on the precipice of our roads being filled with people that have nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs. Sure, they could take out their phone and play a round of Bomb Beach but that still feels reckless even if the car is doing all the hard stuff. Enter: Audio

Pandora now looks at vehicles as “3,000-pound mobile devices” that are ripe with content opportunities. As they put it…

“Audio has called the car home for more than 80 years, and in a completely connected world, is going to prove itself again as a powerful and creative way for brands to truly connect with consumers.”

Uber appears to agree, recently announcing a content push in the form of “Trip Experiences”. Have a 25 minute ride to the airport? They will serve up a custom playlist perfect for the journey. Only have 5 minutes to kill? Here is a quick article to peruse as you cruise.


3) Enhancing Storytelling

When you create content, you are working with a certain number of inputs. What story are we trying to tell? What business problem are we trying to crack? What do we know about how our consumers consume? How did our last content perform?

As we enter the much anticipated age of the “Internet of Things” there are a whole new form of inputs that can help guide your executions. Deeper data for better targeting, smarter measurement and new kinds of engagement.

Let’s think about some future-focused ways these new technologies can impact social marketing.

Quantified Self

Do you have a fitbit? You of course know that it knows when you are working out. But, did you also knows when you broke up with your girlfriend? As more people wear personal trackers and developers find new ways to leverage the incoming stream of data (from sources like Apple’s HeathKit) these new inputs could offer new ways to target content based on situations, not demographics.

Have a health food snack and are looking to grow your awareness? What if you could target people that have just recently began working out?

Sensor Madness

Did you see the fridge that knows when you need milk? What about the belt that tells you you’re fat? How about the bluetooth enabled pregnancy test? Can you spot the trend? Sensor technology has become so cheap, so easy to integrate that engineers and product teams are going a little nuts.

But, as more of the things around us suddenly come online, manufacturers have a chance to open their data to marketers and developers with hopes that they can turn the deluge of data into useful new apps, experiences or stories. Think about what initiatives like NYC Open Data have done for municipal governments. Why can’t the same thing happen to this new world of connected device data.

Artificial Technology

One technology that you could feel at CES, even if not on the show floor, was Artificial Intelligence. Facebook has been toying all year with how to debut its extensive AI research to the masses. First, it was M, their AI driven concierge bot that can help you book an uber or track a package all from your FB Messenger box. But, they didn’t stop there. They have reportedly been giving developers access to their new AI bot protocol so they can build their own chat bots. Some even say bots are the next major social platform, after mobile.

What does this mean for a brand engaging with consumers online? As people become more and more accustomed to interacting with bots that they know full well are not real humans, will they be more open to interacting with a brand in the same way?


PLATFORMS

While CES is known for its focus on hardware, the influx of Silicon Valley software giants is ever present. While the showroom floor is dominated by drones and television screens, Las Vegas was buzzing with news and rumors coming out of meetings set up by the dominant social platforms who came to town courting the same brand and agency partnerships that makes CES so lucrative.

Let’s take a look at what the major players were up to at CES…

Facebook

Facebook is in the unique position at CES of not only hawking it’s growing list of mobile apps but also their burgeoning virtual reality play, Oculus. The line for the Oculus Rift booth (just days after going on sale to consumers) was one of the longest at the show.

Facebook had a minor win when Chevy became the first automaker to stream live using the platforms new Facebook Now feature.

Facebook also took the stage with Target to discuss how mobile technologies are changing the way consumers shop. The conversation delved into the blurring lines between “living” and “shopping”. Mobile technology (and the ads they enable) allows Target to leverage “spontaneous shopping” occasions when people begin their consumer journey on a whim rather than with a specific intent.

Snapchat

First, they plastered their logo (in the form of a poker chip) on the side of the Luxor.

Then, came the news. Although Snapchat had no official keynote or presentation, a week full of well timed PR ensured their brand was a topic of discussion during the entire week. There was the mention of a forthcoming ad API, an entry into the FinTech world, and the shuttering of their short-lived Lens store, just to name a few.

This is the first CES that Snapchat has been able to come to the table with any kind of robust (or actually available) ad products: Live Stories ads, geofilters and Discover ads. Marketers and advertisers alike were chomping at the bit to hear more about Snapchat’s 3V (video, vertical, views) ad platform.

Twitter

Newly-returned CEO Jack Dorsey spent his CES unveiling Twitter’s product roadmap to an audience of (understandably) tepid brands and advertisers.

At the Cosmopolitan, Twitter created Twitter City where company executives acted as cheerleaders to despondent advertisers, waiting to hear how the struggling blue bird plans to bounce back.

Interesting omission: many attendees questioned Twitter’s decision to largely ignore their live-streaming app Periscope during the conference.

Youtube

Google’s YouTube was the only social platform to take the keynote stage. The talk was focused on two key areas: the future of video and YouTube Red.

YouTube Red was launched in October as an ad-free, paid subscription service targeting young people. According to Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl: “For the second year in a row, the most popular entertainers amongst American high schoolers weren’t film actors or musicians, they were YouTube stars”. YouTube Red is an attempt to directly court that audience’s attention.

While GoPro has been having a rough few months, one highlight was CEO Nick Woodman joining Kyncl on stage to discuss their new content partnership. Youtube is working directly with GoPro to make sure their platform is ready as a deluge of 360 video content begins to make it into the wild, especially that shot on the GoPro Odyssey. Google is also rumored to be working on a low cost, non cardboard VR headset.

WRAP UP / TL;DR

Overall, CES 2016 was a great glimpse at the coming year. While some technologies may be experiencing their awkward adolescent years (Internet of Things) others (Virtual Reality, 360 video) are pushing forward at such a clip it will be impossible to ignore their growing impact on content creation in 2016.