I had the pleasure of serving on a technology panel at the WPP Global Retail Forum 2016 in Miami. A major theme among the more than 250 WPP agencies and customers was the importance of creating immersive, personalized digital experiences that resonate with Millennials and Generation Z (“GenZ”). Brands are embracing emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Haptic Wearables, and Internet of Things (IoT) in order to create these cutting-edge experiences. While the conference was targeted at the Retail industry, this theme applies universally and especially to the Media & Entertainment (M&E) industry.
Why are Millennials so important? Goldman Sachs recently reported “one of the largest generations in history-92 million in the US alone is about to move into its prime spending years. Millennials are poised to reshape the economy.” Millennials are digital natives; they live on mobile, they are gamers, they care about experience over material possessions, they are highly informed, and they demand that brands personalize experiences for them.
To effectively reach this new generation, CTOs will be tasked to lead the creation of next generation, extremely personalized, digital experiences that will require a massive amount of big data in real-time. To put things in perspective, consider that today approximately 50,000 GB of data per second is being created. With regard to IoT alone, estimates predict that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, each one producing streams of data. The size of big data today will be a drop in the bucket compared to what’s to come.
I recently took my 12-year-old son to Universal Studios Hollywood and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the experience caused me to reflect on the potential of these emerging technologies and their impact on big data.
Walking through the surreal town of Hogsmead and Hogwarts Castle, and interacting with its lifelike animatronics and holograms was stunning. But taking the 4D ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” was nothing short of amazing. With our eyes shielded by 3D-HD glasses, we were flying with the characters from the books. The experience reminded me that the bar had just been set for what younger audiences will deem cutting edge interactivity and that emerging technologies will soon lead to even more immersive, personalized experiences.
I began to consider what the Universal Studios Hollywood experience would be like with the adoption of these new technologies and the impact it would have on big data.
Emerging technologies such as VR, AR, Haptic Wearables, and IoT are reshaping the expectations of digital experiences among Millennials
First, the visually stunning 3D-HD experience “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride could leverage the power of VR and personalized data. The visitor would wear VR goggles and select their ride preferences. The resulting experience would be highly immersive, adaptive, and personalized while producing and relying on volumes of real-time big data.
Diana Ford, Global Research Lead for Unity Education states, “Virtual reality has been around for a long time, the level of suspension of disbelief that full body tracking offers is uncanny, think about the potential of capturing movement and psychological experiences, and being able to create adaptive VR real-time experiences to enhance them. Truly, virtual worlds are finally our oyster.”
Next, consider the potential of Haptic Wearables on the experience. Haptic Wearables are an emerging technology that enables the wearer to feel digital interactions. Wearing a t-shirt with haptic technology would elevate the 4D experience of the Harry Potter ride from a burst of water droplets to a multisensory experience that again would produce and require an immense amount of personal data.
Billie Whitehouse, Founder and CEO of Wearable Experiments said, “There are opportunities for our products to not only make data more personalized through haptic feedback but also all our products are producing data, hence our understanding of the consumer will be superior to what it has been in the past.”
Let’s continue by exploring how Augmented Reality could change the Universal Studios Hollywood experience. We can imagine visitors walking around the town of Hogsmead wearing AR-enabled glasses, enjoying personalized, interactive content and creating new monetization opportunities for the theme park. Capturing the immense amount of personalized data produced and personalizing the content will be key to make the experience magical.
Lastly, consider the opportunity when every physical object in the theme park is connected to Wi-Fi, capturing real-time interactions with the physical space. By leveraging IoT, Universal Studios Hollywood would be able to measure precisely how visitors are interacting with the theme park. To take advantage of this, the CTO would be challenged with managing and interpreting massive amount of big data.
These technologies will not be reserved for cutting-edge theme parks and gaming. We are beginning to see forward-thinking brands leverage advanced technology to create immersive experiences and the trend is accelerating.
The Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Bourbon 4D VR experience called, “Take a Ride on the Sinister Side,” was launched in late 2015 and is a ground breaking example of bringing next-generation VR experiences directly to the consumer. This very successful VR experience was deployed within bars and literally immerses the user in a virtual ride inside a Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Bourbon barrel, while the scent of the beverage provides the 4D element.
Courtney Stark, Group Account Director with Geometry Global, who lead the program development, states, “The evolution of VR is perfectly aligned with the desire for experiences over possessions. Capturing and leveraging data is key to making these consumer engagements even more valuable. As experiential marketing evolves, basic demographic data and broad generalization about an audience is no longer enough. These consumers want experiences that are personalized to them.”
Emerging technologies such as VR, AR, Haptic Wearables, and IoT are reshaping the expectations of digital experiences among Millennials. CTOs in M&E need to lead the design and development of these innovative experiences and be ready to manage the big data challenges that will emerge.