I recently created an op-ed for Adage called CES 2011: Welcome To The Year of Tablets and Digital Living Rooms which you can view here. This is a preview of what to expect at CES and how marketers might be able to leverage certain technologies unveiled at the annual electronics show. You can also read on below…
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2011 is almost upon us and like all gadget-obsessed technorati, half the excitement of an upcoming CES is trying to guess what new innovations will be unveiled to the public. CES 2010 appeared to be the year of 3-D televisions (fueled by the success of “Avatar” and other popular 3-D films) but adoption by consumers has been lukewarm at best. As Financial Times reports, price and need for 3-D glasses has made many consumers hesitant to purchase last year’s next big thing.
So with CES 2011 just weeks away, what can marketers start preparing for? My guess: tablets and connected TV sets.
The iPad has been a runaway hit for Apple and helped create a new electronics segment sitting squarely in between laptops and netbooks. With Samsung also jumping into the tablet market with the Galaxy Tab, anticipation is high for other Windows 7-, Android- and Linux-based tablets from the likes of Dell, HP and others. So though we can expect tablets to soon be their own category, what does this mean for marketers? For one, it will continue to provide a fragmented market when it comes to campaign development. Apple refuses to support Flash, while Google (with their Android operation system) has been a huge supporter — even going so far as to integrate Flash into the Chrome browser. Then you also have the app vs. mobile web issue to take into account, which leads to greater fragmentation and cost to a marketer.
In addition, though the tablet market is technically more akin to the smartphone than the laptop, there will be mobile marketing-based opportunities for marketers targeting the “always on the grid” mobile consumer. Augmented Reality is one area that can benefit from the larger display screen and processing power of a tablet. LBS will also likely mature to provide more beneficial services for consumers outside of becoming a mayor of a restaurant.
And finally, Skype has already stole some pre-CES thunder by releasing its mobile video chat application for the iOS — iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and the iPad. Though Apple made an initial splash with its FaceTime mobile video chat app, it’s hard to see Apple, or anybody for that matter, denting the Skype armor considering the market share Skype has already amassed. And this market share is interoperable and across mobile, web and even the digital living room via connected TV sets. Skype, like it or not, will become synonymous with video chat just as Google was synonymous with search.
The battle for the digital living room has been ongoing for a while and it’s now finally made it to the mainstream. This year it appears that connected sets and peripherals (i.e. set-top boxes) will be the big bet this year from OEM’s. With more than 200 apps in their store and 1 million app downloads, Samsung has both taken a leadership position in this space and helped validate the market. Though Google has also thrown its hat into the ring with its own Logitech-based set top box and Sony-based TV, they also have had a few problems to date. ReelSEO has a good rundown here. With Apple also selling 1 million units of their Apple TV in 2010 alone, it does appear that the consumer is finally ready for internet connectivity in the living room.
What again does this mean for the marketer? For starters, there is a shift happening from the desktop PC to the connected TV for consumers. The connected-TV environment will not only increase the expectation for interactivity with content but usher out the “passive” viewing experience. If you ever watch ESPN “SportsCenter” and notice the interactivity both on the left and bottom of the screen, this will likely be the future of how we view content in this connected format. Apps will allow for even more interactivity and contextual integration fundamentally changing how marketers will need to interact with viewers.
Though there are likely to be other cool gadgets on display, there’s one other technology that I hope will make an appearance — Kinect. Microsoft’s motion gaming device has been a blockbuster so far with 5 million units sold over the last few months. Though this has created an evolution in gaming, it’s providing a revolution in how people interact with digital information via the Natural User Interface (NUI). Just as consumers were getting used to touchscreen displays, we now have another shift to motion-based interaction and gestural control. If you have the time, it’s worth checking out the Kinect Hacks site to see how “hackers” are using the Kinect technology to create mind-blowing examples of everything from Predator type “cloaking” to the Minority Report navigation system.
“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”
We try to keep this blog as objective as possible, but recent moves by Apple has unfortunately brought out very subjective opinions from people here – including myself. The latest issue revolves around Apple removing the iChatr App from the iPhone. If you’re unfamiliar with iChatr it is basically a video chat app that uses the front facing camera for random video chats – think mobile Chatroulette. According to the developers, the app was pulled “due to reports of a number of users exposing themselves during the random video chat sessions.” You can read more here.
Now that the explanation is out of the way, let me start with the rant. When is Steve Jobs going to stop forcing random censorship on iPhone owners and trying to tell us what we can and can’t install/have/view on the iPhone???? What’s next, removing other chat apps for people swearing at each other? This goes beyond a software/app issue as it’s the way people are using it that is the cause for censorship via removal. iChatr functions exactly like Face Time though the connections on iChatr are random and anybody using the app knows that. If people start exposing themselves on Face Time is Apple suddenly going to pull their own Face Time chat app from the iPhone platform? This not only reeks of self indulgent censorship on Apple’s part but also exposes Apple’s increasingly anti-competitive nature.
Recent video chat apps such as iChatr and Fring have suddenly been coming under fire after being initially approved by Apple and posted to the App Store. What my gut thinks is that these apps were approved but then someone at Apple realized that these were in fact competitors to Face Time and iChatr was promptly removed, with Fring presumably close behind. I tried to explain how mobile video chat would take off in this previous post, but only through software that was multi-platform and allowed users to talk to each other on different handsets – like Fring but not like Face Time.
This latest move by Apple is another serious misstep and I’m really at a point of ridding myself of Apple and the iPhone once and for all. I want a device that I can put what I want on it and not have somebody else telling me what is appropriate or not on the device I purchased. Apple’s views and policies are increasingly going against the very basic principles this country was founded on.
At least the Gizmodo community thinks this is ridiculous too. If you feel differently, feel free to comment below or hit me up on Twitter @kobrakai.
Walt Mossberg’s iPhone 4 Review is up (embedded below) and it confirms what many people thought – iPhone 4 seems to be a great device but video chat is destined to fail given Apple’s recent moves in the marketplace. You can get a full rundown of iPhone OS 4 features here.
For starters, in order to use Video Chat on iPhone 4 you need to have someone else with the exact same device. Not 3GS, not 3G. Only iPhone 4 people can video chat with other iPhone 4 people.
You need Wi-Fi to run “Facetime”. This will rule out people video chatting on the go. In a fixed location most people would have a laptop with a webcam so why use a mobile device in this instance? You would need to hold it the entire time and the iPhone isn’t the easiest device to prop up for stationary chat.
No cross platform compatibility. In the review, Mossberg claims Apple is “going to open video chat software to other companies”. Bull. Shit.
Apple’s recent moves in the marketplace against Adobe and other companies shows that it definitely is not keen to play nice in the sandbox with others. In fact, I would not be surprised if Apple blocks other video chat software from running on iPhone 4 as to not compete with “Facetime”. The only way video chat will become big on mobile like it has on the PC is if there’s cross platform compatibility or unifying software (like Skype) that works across all systems and in this case handsets and mobile OS’es. This is frustrating for the consumer and it’s starting to feel like the 90′s again where Apple decisions nearly sunk the company. Replace Microsoft with Google and it’s the same scenario all over again.
On a final note, I’m starting to get the sense that Apple’s “Go at it alone” strategy is ultimately going to sink it since video chat won’t be exclusive to mobile devices and will need to be compatible across a connected TV in the living room, the PC and mobile. Skype is already making great strides here from software being available on all formats. There’s no denying Apple has clout in the mobile sector but do they really have the political capital elsewhere? I for one definitely think they do not. Would love to hear your comments or hit me up on twitter @kobrakai.
Disclaimer: I have an iPhone and I love it. It’s the best mobile device I’ve ever used. But, like others, I’m getting tired of the restrictions on my device and the device’s inability to play nice with others.
So the numbers above show that there is avid consumer interest for broadcasts that happen over the net, in realtime and streamed. But what of Interactive Video Conferencing? Though the events above offer social media integration they aren’t ‘true’ interactive video conferencing events. To date, most of these livestream broadcasts allow people to chat with one another about the event as it’s happening or to pose questions that a moderator will ask the subject of the livestream itself. But is this true ‘interactivity’? I would argue a definitive no.
Skype and live 1-to-1 video conferencing systems offer interaction between connected hosts in a live, connected video feed. So there’s already an inherent difference between the current examples of ‘livestreams’ and the systems in place for ‘video conferences’. Conferences being the keyword that implies basic live video interaction between stream members. But, apart from making headlines on Techcrunch or Mashable, most videoconferencing and livestreaming hasn’t achieved a level of critical mass adoption yet.
Twitter was the catalyst to help microblogging explode onto the scene and even went so far as to create an ecosystem around it – url shorteners, service clients (Tweetdeck, Seesmic) and so on. Similar patterns are emerging with the recent massive growth Chatroulette is experiencing. Part of this is due to curiosity (like every new trend) but I would wager that Chatroulette itself has just become the catalyst for interactive video conferencing and will accelerate adoption of video conferencing by the masses.
Here in no particular order are a few stats on the webcam and videoconferencing ecosystem:
Note: Chatroulette is a new video chat service that can be very NSFW (Not Safe For Work). It is suggested you read here before going to the site so you know what to expect.
So these are ‘official stats’ but what of Chatroulette? Since the service has only been out a few months, there’s not much in way of official stats but here’s what I’ve been able to dig up or have seen after using the service:
Traffic has almost doubled in a week from 20,000 concurrent users on 2/13 to almost 40,000 on 2/20
Approximately 75% of users seem to fall into the 18-24 age group.
Though there is still quite a bit of obscene content, it seems to have diminished ratio wise with the larger traffic numbers. Maybe more ‘normal’ people are starting to use the service
An ecosystem around Chatroulette is already developing. The 1st out of the gate – software that allows you to modify your live video stream. Manycam is one such system which allows for Augmented Reality-like features such as applying animations to your face through facial tracking.
The most important observation – clones of the service are already appearing in record time – Redditroulette, Tinychat and others.
So what Chatroulette has shown is that there is definitely consumer interest in and a market for interactive video conferencing – especially with the Gen Y demographic. This is not surprising as both Gen Y and Gen Z are demographic sets that will be growing up with these types of interactive systems in place (similar to initial text based chat systems that were in place for Gen X.)
Furthermore, Chatroulette has shown that a simple UI and Flash based video conferencing system can work – efficiently and effectively. This probably isn’t good news for startups and tech companies that have been trying to sell 5-6 figure teleconferencing platforms and systems to businesses. Expect to start seeing ‘generated backlash’ against the Flash-based technology even though the genie is already out of the bottle.
Finally, this recent surge in traffic with Chatroulette shows that desktop based video conferencing only has room for growth. As adoption grows, we’ll also see more advanced uses of video conferencing which include more advanced interactivity. This is the main reason we developed ZugSTAR technology to allow Augmented Reality based interactivity between video streams.
In summary, it remains to be seen if Chatroulette itself is a fad or the next Twitter. However, what is has shown is that interactive video conferencing is here to stay and is positioning itself to be the de facto method of communication very soon.
Any comments, hit me up on Twitter @kobrakai or leave comments below.
ZugSTAR Combines The Interactivity Of Augmented Reality With The Immediacy Of Live Video Conferencing
For all press inquiries, please contact: press(at)zugara(dot)com
February 4, 2010, Los Angeles – Today Zugara is introducing “ZugSTAR” (Zugara STreaming Augmented Reality), a technology that allows people in different locations to have shared Augmented Reality experiences from within their video feeds. Picture a web based video conferencing system similar to Skype*, but with the added functionality of being able to see one another’s “augmented” experience in real time. With ZugSTAR, Augmented Reality becomes a technology that facilitates collaboration, and physical distance becomes less of a barrier.
As a proof of concept, Zugara has already integrated this prototype within their Webcam Social Shopper to create a more engaging, and social, online retail experience. Whether its two lifelong friends attending different Universities, or a mother in NY who wants some quality time with her daughter in Dallas, online shopping can now be a more emotionally satisfying experience. And with the effectiveness of traditional forms of advertising in steep decline, what brand wouldn’t want to facilitate that type of branded experience for their consumers?
The video below demonstrates both the Webcam Social Shopper integration, and a few potential use cases that are currently in development:
“While integrating ZugSTAR into the Webcam Social Shopper is a natural extension of the tech, it’s certainly not the full extent of our vision.” said Matt Szymczyk, CEO, Zugara. “Gartner predicts that by 2015 200 million people will be paying for desktop video conferencing. Now, I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but this tech has the potential to impact virtually every single industry. Anywhere distance is a barrier to real-time collaboration, ZugSTAR has the potential to provide a tremendous amount of value.”
To illustrate Matt’s point, here are a few potential use cases for ZugSTAR:
EDUCATION (DISTANCE LEARNING): A science teacher can field questions and twist and turn a DNA helix as he/she explains their answers.
MEDICINE: 3D models of an fMRI will allow a Dr. to either consult with other Dr.’s, or explain the test’s results directly to a patient.
PUBLISHING: Augmented Reality Pop-Up Books can enable a parent that’s on the road to help their child to learn how to read.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: A 3D model (e.g. of a shoe or a building being developed) can be shared, and discussed, with colleagues, clients, vendors, and partners.
CASUAL GAMING: Augmented Reality based casual games can now be multiplayer.
So, what do you think? What other industries can this technology impact? We’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below.
About Zugara’s Proprietary Augmented Reality Technologies
The Webcam Social Shopper
For more information on the Webcam Social Shopper, click here.
Cannonballz, A Casual Game Using ZugMO Motion Capture Technology
Zugara, a member of the Augmented Reality Industry guiding “AR Consortium”, is an interactive marketing company focused on emerging media and technology. Zugara’s main areas of expertise include interactive video, social media, mobile marketing and website / application development. In addition to the strategic marketing based services we provide for our clients, Zugara also creates proprietary Augmented Reality technologies and products, including The Webcam Social Shopper, and a web based motion capture interface, ZugMO. Founded in 2001, and based in Los Angeles, Zugara is currently in the process of expanding and opening a second office in New York.
Copyright 2010 ZugSTAR Technology
Copyright 2009 ZugMO Technology
Copyright 2009 Zugara Inc.
*Skype is not affiliated in any way with ZugSTAR, and was just used to give readers a frame of reference.
YouTube Continues Push Into Livestreaming Event…it’s only Cricket for now but don’t be surprised if YouTube starts bidding against major networks for online rights to major league events in the near future..
We Are Organized Chaos (WAOC) is Zugara’s (www.zugara.com) interactive marketing and advertising blog where we’ll be featuring some great projects and discussing upcoming trends in the digital world. Work — good and bad — will be critiqued. Hope you’ll enjoy reading our insights and thoughts on interactive.