Executives at ad:tech New York this week presented three emerging technologies, some more mature than others, with the potential to change the marketing business: 3D projection, gesture-recognition technology and RFID tags. But participants were told to think hard as to whether such technologies were merely cool or would actually help enhance their business.
Joshua Cohen, president and chief executive of Pearl Media, gave ad:tech participants a look at 3D projection experiences, in which 3D images are mapped onto a two-dimensional surface, such as a building, room wall or a mannequin. The results, which take weeks of painstaking work on the behalf of companies like Pearl, normally elicit "ooh's and aah's" from spectators. After identifying the best place to project the image, it has to be laser-scanned, then recreated with software back in the studio. Finally it is projected back onto the original image.
Cohen showed off stunning examples such as a projection onto the Roosevelt Hotel it developed on behalf of Lexus to promote its CT 200 Hybrid model on Earth Day in April. The building appeared to have pieces of windows and doors moving back and forth, while the CT 200 drove around its walls. Combined with cool lighting and music, and alternated with moments of complete darkness, the installation wowed viewers. But beyond the buzz moment this created among roughly 25,000 people who viewed it, the installation lives on via YouTube (600,000 views) and sharing of viewers over Facebook, Twitter and blogs. It's not the cheapest way to make a marketing splash, but, taking into account the pass-along value via social media, Cohen estimated the earned media value at $5 million, because it would have cost $5 to $10 per consumer in paid advertising to reach that many consumers.
On the more futuristic side is gesture-recognition technology, in which computers or other objects react to movements from users. How exactly marketers will be able to make use of this new technology is still being explored, according to Jacob Braude, senior VP, strategic planning at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and director of the Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness Lab. One innovative company is Leap Motion, which is offering a device for $70 that allows users to control it with nuanced hand and finger movements. "This could do for the PC what the iPhone did for mobile," claimed Braude. He also pointed to SoftKinetic, which makes gesture-recognition sensitive cameras used in video games or video conferencing equipment, as well as Flutter, which lets users play and pause their music collections on iTunes and Spotify using hand movements. Braude also gave a nod to Disney, whose researchers are working on technology that would give doorknobs, clothing and even water the ability to recognize tiny gestures. Braude said that while at first they would likely be add-ons to a computer, much like a web cam, gesture-recognition technology will eventually be incorporated right into the hardware. He said that some health care companies are already developing apps using gesture recognition technology as are gaming companies. He left listeners with this thought: "Will you be there in an intelligent way or just because it's cool?"
Back to the present, Erik Muendel, chief executive and creative director of digital agency Brightline Interactive, made participants aware of creative uses for a slightly more established technology, RFID tags. Vail Resorts is using such tags, which are intelligent bar codes that wirelessly communicate information to a networked system, to create a fun new app that incorporates gamification elements. Called EpicMix Racing, it allows season pass holders at Vail's six resorts to compare their racing times with American ski racer Lindsey Vonn, winning digital medals based on their achievements. They can also compare and share the results with family and friends over Facebook and Twitter.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.