Technically Human: Episode 6
December 27, 2016
Transcript

[background music]

Katie Cantu: Hi there. I’m Katie Cantu, strategist at Ignite Partnership.

Mike Covert: I’m Mike Covert, founder of Ignite Partnership.

Katie: You’re listening to “Technically Human,” where marketing experts talk about how to find the soul in technology products and services. What really makes humans tick when it comes to tech? Join us on our cultural expedition to find out.

This week on Technically Human, we’re taking a minute to look back at the rise and fall of 2016 tech trends. ‘Tis the season for 2017 predictions, but what about last year’s predictions?

As a marketing agency for technology companies, we can’t help but geek out over the latest and greatest technologies and take note of their adoption rate, especially when it seems slower than predicted.

Before we get down to business, I want to introduce you to our special guest this week, Justin Young. Justin is one of our digital creative directors here at Ignite Partnership.

Justin Young: Hey, guys.

Katie: Justin, you want to tell us a little bit about what you do at Ignite?

Justin: Sure…basically, if it’s anything nerdy, I’m into it, and I’m checking it out. Also, I’m the digital creative director here—if it’s on a screen, and sometimes even if it’s not, I’m usually involved.

Katie: Perfect. Also today, we have our usual host, Mike Covert, back in the studio with us.

Mike: Thanks for letting me back, Katie.

Katie: [laughs]

Mike: I’ll try to be better this time.

Katie: No, we missed you. It’s good to have you back.

Mike: Awesome.

Katie: To kick things off, we have each decided to pick one technology trend that was supposed to reach its tipping point in 2016. Then we ask ourselves, “Did this actually happen?”

Mike: It’s also easy to see, if you’ve been in the business as long as we have, that every year some of those trends keep reappearing.

Katie: Let’s go ahead and talk about some of the categories that we picked. Mike, you want to start us off?

Mike: Yeah. I find this exercise really interesting. One acronym came to life to me right away. It’s probably dominating the trends for the last few years, and that’s IoT, or Internet of Things.

This time, I wanted to make sure we looked at it from a consumer point of view, versus a business point of view. Machine‑to‑machine learning and interaction has been going on for quite some time. The real tipping point is how it affects consumer lives.

This is an industry that’s been projected to grow 36 percent a year from now until 2020. That is hard to sustain. This is projected to be over 13 billion live consumer devices, according to research, by 2020.

Katie: Wow.

Mike: I hope you did your part, Justin. Do you have your wearable on?

Justin: Yes, I do.

Mike: Katie, I know you’re a fan of this space, and really what this space is, the way I think about it, connected home, connected auto, your little mobile ecosystem that involves wearables.

How do you have individual consumer devices that talk to each other that make things either more convenient, or contextually more relevant, as you go about your daily life?

Katie: Right. In looking at that, what did you find, Mike? Did you see that the consumer adoption rate did take off the way that it predicted? I suspect not, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Mike: I went less by…I can’t figure out if it met expectations necessarily this year. For instance, Apple just reported its largest smartwatch quarter ever, right?

Katie: Right.

Mike: There’s definitely signs that people are adopting technology like wearables and bolstering their ecosystem with smart locks and security devices for their homes. You can kind of see it everywhere.

What I was wondering, and why this made my list, is it just doesn’t seem to be as pervasive from an individual life standpoint. We’re more technophile maybe than a lot of folks, maybe?

Katie: Yep.

Mike: I’m thinking about the mainstream component of what will allow it to grow at that rate, and that’s what I see some hesitancy on. That’s what made me curious.

I’ll ask you guys outright. Do you think that your friends, family—just you watching the world from a window—do you think they’re jumping up on this IoT bandwagon?

Justin: I think to a certain…you go through the store, and you see smart home things that you can talk to—Google, or whatever that thing is they have. I don’t know the name of it—like a Siri equivalent or Amazon equivalent.

But that’s the thing…13 billion sounds like a lot, but it is a lot if it’s one phone that you have in your pocket, but when your windows are online, or every tile that’s on your roof, like the Tesla solar roof that they’re coming out with later this year—I can’t specifically say that each of those things will be online.

It’s a multiplying effect, and as time goes by, especially right now, maybe you don’t upgrade the house that you have, but starting this year and moving forward, more and more pieces of your house are going to be coming online as time goes by.

To your point, did it actually take off this year? Is this a wholly adopted thing? That is probably questionable to say that.

Katie: Holy adoption.

Justin: Is that a thing? Did I coin a new phrase?

[laughter]

Mike: I thought he also said that each individual smart tile is going to count as a unit towards the 20 billion.

Justin: You don’t think that’s how they’re counting it?

Mike: I don’t know. Why would they, as opposed to one roof. What’s smart? Is it the tile, or is it the roof? Is it the flock, or is it the sheep?

Justin: I say individual pieces. For instance, your windows, you wouldn’t count all the windows as your house as one device. Those are individual devices. If you have 20 windows, that’s 20 devices right there, just windows.

Katie: That’s interesting. Mike, you and I were actually talking about this a couple of days ago, because we each made our list of the predictions that we saw from 2016, and it was like, “What struck a chord with us that really didn’t reach its tipping point?” This one did not make my list.

Several other things did, but the reason it didn’t make my list is because for me and my family, 2016 was the year of the connected home. We got AT&T Digital Life, which is connected home security. We also invested in the Amazon Echo, which interfaces with some of that.

My husband bought me a smartwatch, which controls stuff at the house. For me, and for some of my immediate family, it’s easy to see that that adoption rate has taken off, but I’ll tell you what I can really empathize with is some of the hurdles to adopting this connected home lifestyle.

Did you see a lot of that, Mike? I have my own thoughts there, but…

Mike: If you had to guess, what is one of the more common hurdles? I found two.

Katie: Yeah, for me, from personal experience, it was taking the leap, being willing to invest in this, but then running into the issue of, “Things don’t talk to each other yet,” it’s like you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, because that basket doesn’t do everything yet, but your eggs can’t talk to each other, either. [laughs]

Mike: It reminds me of that beautiful time when there’s one technology that allows you to jump. Think back to the first DVR, TiVo. There was, either you TiVo’d or you didn’t. It allowed for mass adoption, but now for the newer entries, you do have choices.

I find the complexity is listed quite a bit, not just in seamless interfaces or ecosystems, but also in user interface. Also, in “What is the value it’s bringing to you?” Health and fitness is the most common reason, or Katie, in your case, home security.

Beyond that, what is truly necessary versus novel? As you make that leap, especially if something’s more expensive, novel just doesn’t translate into experimenting.

Justin: The way I think about technologies, it’s not necessarily the things that we do that change, it’s how we do them.

Whereas, you could think that they are a novelty, or they seem like a novelty in some instances, there are also a lot of instances, maybe, that we haven’t even implemented yet, or that people are working on, or they haven’t really worked out all the kinks of it.

Any opportunity where you can make things easier for people, and basically give them back more time, or take out steps to them accomplishing something, there’s an opportunity for large adoption there, because obviously, people are busy. They’re overworked, and if you can…

Even though it might be a novelty to show your friend that you can unlock your front door from your phone or whatever, whenever you really want that package from FedEx, and you’re not home, and you see from your doorbell camera that the FedEx guy’s there, and you can speakerphone him through your doorbell, suddenly that becomes a very valuable thing—whereas before, it was just a novelty.

Mike: I think that’s a really good point, Justin, and as marketers, that’s our job. There’s complexity in the way of making this choice. We’re not the only ones saying it. You can read the reports. You can see that it is a confusing thing to just jump into in an impulse way. As marketers, how can we paint those stories that show the true benefit of doing this?

And also, how can we make it really easy to understand how to jump into it, that you’re not going to make a mistake, that you’re not going to be like me. Buy a smart thing, and then have to end up buying ten other smart things to make the original smart thing work, which happened to me recently. I’m not bitter.

[laughter]

Justin: Yeah, just to jump in. Also, part of the reason why a lot of these things don’t talk to each other is because it’s so new, and as this ecosystem grows, it’s going to be more and more cumbersome to get all these things to talk together.

They’re going to have to figure out ways to make it really easy for people to integrate this stuff. Otherwise, they won’t use it. If it’s too hard to use, people are just going to skip it.

Mike: But if we don’t figure out how to solve what you just said, and paint those pictures, I wonder how patient the buying public is going to be to allow for the growth that’s been projected, including what was really the first year is expected to be mass adoption, which was really this year, in the home, and in everyone’s personal life.

There’s one more reason that they expect this may not come to fruition. Do you all know what that is?

Katie: Nope. What is it?

Mike: Security. You’ve all heard the tale about the smart teddy bear that gets hacked by a satanic cult master.

Justin: I have heard that one.

Mike: Right?

[laughter]

Mike: And then suddenly, you find out because it was insecure that your child is listening to messages from a stranger that you didn’t expect in your home, right?

Katie: Right.

Mike: I don’t know that that actually happened, and I wonder if people actually care that much, but Katie, imagine what you’d think if I told you 75 percent of smart locks have recently been proven to be compromised? How does that smart lock feel now?

Justin: But to…

Katie: Not so smart.

[laughter]

Justin: Yeah, a smart lock, that’s fine, but also, what percentage of traditional locks can be compromised by a locksmith if he wanted to get in? It’s almost 100 percent.

Katie: Right, 100 percent.

Mike: Or, my foot.

[laughter]

Justin: A lot of the times, people are afraid about their information floating around, and all this and that, but the reality is [that] there’s security in the anonymity of this thing. Because everybody’s information is all floating around, the likelihood you getting picked off out of that crowd is almost zero.

In most cases, that’s the thing. It might be that 75 percent of these locks could…or have been proven that you can break the security in these things and get inside, but what’s really the likelihood of that happening to you? Almost zero.

Mike: I actually think, just looking at a list of reasons that people believe there may be barriers to getting to this mass adoption, I believe this one is not there. It’s just commonly cited.

I think a large part of the public has already come to peace with the fact that our stuff is out there, accessible by a lot of people that we don’t know or necessarily like, and this is just a new step in that. I don’t really believe that’s going to be a differentiator for you and your smart lock.

Katie: One thing I was going to add: When we were talking earlier about the competition and the multiple options that are out there and how at least one of the big barriers for me has been that things don’t talk to each other. What if I buy something, and then it’s not compatible?

As marketers, I think we have a unique opportunity to position brands as your go‑to source for a connected home. As we work with the Samsungs of the world, we’re able to tell a story about the connected home and get people into an ecosystem. There’s a real unique chance to leverage the loyalty play.

Mike: I think, to your point, that makes a lot of sense. If it’s just one thing that you have in your home, maybe it’s not really…there’s not enough weight there to pull you into that system, but a lot of stuff that I’ve read, it’s like in order to get somebody to switch from something that they have right now that works for them, it has to be ten times as better.

If you’re switching from one phone to another, one type of home security system to another, OK, maybe, maybe not, if it seems like the same thing. I can’t really tell. But if suddenly it’s like, “Oh, no. My roof is online, my windows…”

It uses this one ecosystem, and you don’t have to do anything except call a phone number, and they’re like, “Yeah, we’ll have it on Thursday,” then, that’s really what will get this moving forward, I feel like.

It’s not just one little piece here and there like a lot of companies are doing right now, but integrating all these things together. That’s really where the value will come from, and people will start to recognize that more.

Katie: It’s funny. I grew up as a kid watching shows like “The Jetsons…”

[theme song plays]

Katie: …is the one I always think about when I think about technology and the connected home.

Justin, I’m sure you’ve thought about it this way, because you have very much of a developer mind, but as a kid and growing up and hearing, “There’s going to be flying cars…”

[spacecraft sound effect]

Katie: …and all of these technologies that we can’t even imagine.

Justin: I’m on board. Let’s do it.

Katie: It never crossed my mind, “Oh, there’s going to be different types of these things, and they might not all work together. You would watch The Jetsons, and everything was just seamless.

They weren’t choosing between a brand. Things weren’t malfunctioning. I’m sure that’s always been in the back of your mind, but for somebody who doesn’t have that development background, I don’t know. I didn’t consider that there would be operating systems for things.

Justin: Yeah, you don’t ever see George Jetson getting frustrated and throwing his phone across the room. That doesn’t happen.

[laughter]

Justin: Apple’s a good example of closed systems. You can’t really hook other pieces in unless it’s Apple. Until there are more systems like that that integrate everything, there’s going to have to be go‑between bridges that you can use to cobble these things together.

In the interim, that’s very frustrating for people that are novice, like for instance, my parents. They would never do that, but me, I would sit all weekend and figure out how to turn on my porch light from Africa or something. Do you know what I mean?

I would spend a ridiculous amount of time on this thing to do this cool little party trick, but for me, that’s easy, and I’m interested in it. It’s a lot harder for people to…when things don’t work together that way, for them to even bother with it.

Mike: I think until this gets more intuitive for the mass buying public that can allow a trend like this to come to fruition, it just won’t. It’ll be specialized, it’ll be niche, versus at some point, can you imagine a home without some sort of way to record content? It’s probably out there, but it just it seems almost baseline now.

At some point, having a video player or a camera on your doorbell to be able to open up the door for the FedEx man or woman from afar, that will probably be the kind of baseline, but I think we need to make it a lot simpler first.

Katie: Totally agree.

Mike: IoT. What else, Katie? What else did you notice that may or may not have met the expectations of ’16?

Katie: A couple of things made my list, but ultimately, what was at the top of that list was mobile payments. I feel like we’re going on about, at least year two, potentially year three, of everybody saying, “This is the year.”

Especially with wearables really taking off, the Samsung Gear, and having Apple Pay on a watch, the Wallet, I think everybody kind of expected us to all be walking around, holding our watches up to credit card scanners and swiping from our phone.

I’m really not seeing that, and the truth is, I actually…in the past months, and since I have gotten a smart watch, have tried to use that and thought, “Huh. That might be kind of convenient.”

What’s interesting about it is despite me getting over the consumer hurdle of being able to do that, I’ve found a lot of places still are not capable of facilitating that transaction. What about you guys? Do you use any type of mobile payment?

Justin: Yeah, I do. I like it. Of course, I’m a super nerd, any kind of stuff like that I’m immediately on board.

It’s cool, but that’s the thing, is it doesn’t make my life that much better. It doesn’t make my life that much easier.

It’s a fun trick to do for people, and a lot of times when I do it, I’m very self‑conscious about bringing attention to myself. Doing that in the store, everybody’s like, “Oh, well look at you,” and I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, I know, but like, I want to try this thing out. It’s super fun.” It’s a cool trick, but I personally feel that it brings too much attention to me.

Mike: It’s interesting that you said, “It’s a cool trick,” because that’s how it does feel. It feels, like we said before, earlier, talking about IoT, it still feels really novel, like you have to really try to use your mobile payments. It doesn’t go as intuitive as it could be.

Unlike drawing attention to myself, though, Justin—I love your story, but I feel the opposite when I try and be that guy in line that’s going to use mobile payments. I’m honestly actively discouraged from people on the other side of the POS machine.

They say, “No, no, we don’t do that,” when they might. It’s amazing how hesitant it is even from a retailer perspective. Maybe they don’t understand it, but I don’t find that number one, I’m being encouraged to change my average payment behavior.

Katie: Interesting.

Justin: I think you’re right in that, because there’s a lot of places that I go to, they still don’t even take a chip card, and the reason is because they have to switch out their whole system, and it’s expensive and all of that.

I think that both of those things came at the same time, and more and more, I see them together, where you can use mobile payments, and you can use a chip, but it’s like both‑or‑none type situation.

Katie: Yeah, you brought up the chip, Justin, and I think that’s a really good point, because what I see as one of the major barriers to mobile payments having taken off in 2016 is that you’ve probably noticed retailers nationwide have switched to these chip readers, and it’s been expensive. It’s been a huge investment for them to switch to that.

What they did—and this is really a huge miss, and it’s hard to say who’s to blame, or to point the finger here, but a lot of those, like Justin said, they are combo card readers that will read the chip, and then they also have NFC technology. Some of them are not, and they don’t have the NFC capability.

Companies who just invested, honestly, millions and millions of dollars upgrading their hardware here to take the chip reader, and then didn’t add on the NFC capability, it’s going to be a long time before they go back and switch so that they can accommodate things like the Apple Wallet or Samsung Pay. The truth is, there’s really nothing in it for them as a retailer right now.

Mike: Who’s pushing it? What is the force behind mobile payment? What’s the major stakeholder really pushing this, and what do they get?

Justin: The stakeholders are the people that are manufacturing this technology and promoting it to be like, “Oh, this is cool. I need to get that.”

Katie: I think it’s an interesting category, because there are so many stakeholders and players, and some of them are not the usual suspects. You have Apple, who’s created the Wallet; you have Samsung, who’s got Samsung Pay and has partnered with credit cards.

We’ve also seen banks come out this year with their own proprietary form of mobile payment. That’s in an effort to get somebody to switch and join a different financial institution to take advantage of their proprietary technology.

Justin: It’s funny that you mentioned that, because Walmart is developing their own digital wallet-type system.

When I first got my watch, I was like, “Oh, cool.” I’d go to Walmart, because I knew that they had NFC stuff in their registers, and it’s like, “No, we don’t do that here.”

Then I start seeing, as time went on, more and more things of like, Walmart Pay, I think is what they call it. In that regard, there is a lot of incentive for retailers to do that. It’s the equivalent of a Neiman Marcus card or something.

Katie: Right. The other thing I think is interesting is we’re talking about this…we’re referring to it as mobile payments, but actually, the primary way that I have used this, dipped my toes into this technology…

I can’t say that I didn’t feel really similar to the way that Justin described, which was like I attracted way too much attention to myself, but there was a good use case there, more than just novelty.

I travel quite a bit, and so, I have the Apple Watch my husband bought for me, which in and of itself has been pretty novel. One thing I really like about it is it has the Wallet on there, you can add your boarding pass to the Wallet on your watch.

Instead of trekking around the airport holding all of your bags, and your phone in your hand that contains your boarding pass, or digging in your bag to pull that out, you’re able to pull it up on your watch and scan it to get on the plane.

I really liked that, because I’m always doing the airport shuffle, which is where I’m about to drop something and step on a pretzel I just bought.

But when I did this, I was at Virgin Atlantic, and they were like, “What? We’ve never seen that before,” and then people were like…

Justin: Really? That place hasn’t seen that?

Katie: Yes, which, of all airlines—I love Virgin, big fan of them. If you’re interested in sponsoring my partnership, feel free to contact us.

But yeah, I was surprised that they hadn’t seen it, because they have an app, and are usually on top of their tech game. Then of course, everybody looked out of line.

One person was like, “That doesn’t work here,” and then it did work, and they were like, “Well, I didn’t know that worked.” It was too much. I actually considered it the next time. I was like, “I don’t think I’m going to do it.”

Mike: I think you make a really good point about a clear use case. There is a clear convenience benefit to this.

There’s also a clear benefit on the other side, which is closer access to people’s purchase decisions and regular decisions, for someone that may want to sponsor this and really get hold of the data to make Katie’s world easier in even other ways, and anticipate what she needs besides boarding Virgin, which what? You fly once a week, twice a week?

Katie: No. [laughs]

Mike: Four times a week?

Katie: No. Justin, what about you? We’ve talked about a couple of different things. We’ve talked about Internet of Things, connected home, mobile payments. What made your list? What stood out to you as, “Oh my gosh, we’ve been hearing about this for years, and…nothing.”

Justin: Two letters: VR.

Katie: Really?

Justin: Yes. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great. I love it. It’s awesome. It’s super fun, but leading up to this year, and even this whole year, still, you hear about it a lot. That’s the thing is you hear about it a lot, but I don’t feel like it’s as publicly adopted as it is made out to be a lot of the time.

I also don’t think that there is…just recently has it really started to take hold, I feel. I don’t mean recently like in the last six or nine months. I mean in the last four or five weeks, really, in my opinion.

Katie: Yeah, that’s fair.

Justin: To give you a perfect example, I went to GameStop probably three or four weeks ago. I just got an Xbox, I’m like, “OK, I’m super gung‑ho about video games. I’ve got to go to GameStop and check it out.”

I walk in. They have an attendant there that has the new PlayStation with the virtual reality goggles and all this. He cleans it off for you and everything. I sat down and played a game, and it was cool. Yeah, it was cool, but the thing is…this is the end of October, and there’s still an…

It’s such a…not a novelty. It’s such a new thing still that Sony feels the need to have a representative there to explain how this thing works, and show people, “Here’s how you hold the controllers. Here’s how you use this thing.”

In addition to that point, I was walking through Walmart the other day, and I saw a stacked up display in the aisle, like they have in the middle, of VR goggles. It was probably like a thousand pairs sitting there.

I was like, “OK, now”—in my opinion—“now, this is going to be a pretty proliferating thing,” especially once it goes into places like Walmart, it’s going to be everywhere. They had a lot of them sitting there, of course, in anticipation for Christmas.

I really feel like next year is going to be where VR becomes really a mainstay in entertainment for people.

Katie: It’s interesting that you mentioned Walmart, because just last night, I was at JCPenney doing some Christmas shopping, and in the line there, they have all of the “As Seen on TV” gifts, and then, Sharper Image comes out of the woodwork and has some holiday stuff there.

Then, there was this…I couldn’t even tell you what brand it was. It was a no‑name brand. It was like, “Virtual reality headset,” and I thought, “OK, here we go,” right?

Justin: Yeah, now, it’s a thing.

Katie: Somebody’s grandparents are going to be in line and be like, “I’ve heard the kids talking about that,” and grab one of those. I’m not sure if it’ll work with any smart device, but for it to be in the checkout line of JCPenney was like, “Huh. OK. Maybe we’re getting somewhere.”

Justin: Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw it, too. I was like, “OK, somebody’s grandma is going to hear that their grandson is really interested in virtual reality, and she’s like, ‘Oh, this would be a great gift for Johnny.’”

To give another example, did you guys do the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 360 VR video experience? Did you guys see that?

Mike: No.

Justin: They only said it a couple of times during the parade, but I’d heard about it leading up to that. It was really cool. They had different viewpoints from around the city.

I used to live in New York, it was cool to be able to put these goggles on, look around and see, “Oh, yeah, I remember what’s behind Macy’s, and I remember what’s over here. You can see the whole city.” For me, that was cool because it reminded me of living there.

But my family came over for Thanksgiving dinner, and I was showing them this thing. Their minds were exploding. They had never seen anything like this before, and like I said, here it is, the end of the year almost, and they had never looked at any of this stuff before. They were blown away by how cool it was.

Mike: I guess it comes down to this. What makes for a trend? I can say quite confidently that VR at the end of ’16 is a very different beast than VR at the beginning of ’16. There are now multiple ways to get involved. The content available to enjoy it is through the roof now compared to where it was even 12 months ago.

You could argue that when different generations that probably need to be introduced by another generation that’s closer to technology are now asking for it, or involved, seeing the commercials, wondering what it is…

That tells me the foundation is there, that this really possibly has been the year of VR, even though to your point, Justin, the maturity of it will certainly take another step forward next year, because now, there’s a proven market to invest further in it. But you needed ’16 to have ’17.

Justin: I don’t disagree with that. I see your point, but also the thing is too, is when people first…when Netflix came out, I don’t consider early adoption to be the “official year” of whatever this thing is.

To me, that’s like you said, it’s the lead‑up to that. Now, Netflix is a thing, for sure, undeniable, whereas leading up to this year, it was like, “Well, is this really going to be the year for VR, or is it going to be next year?” It’s squishy there.

It wasn’t until really just the last few months, I feel like, to where it was like, “OK, everybody, we’re doing this. Here we go.”

Katie: I think another test will be—and we do this all the time as marketers…it’s our job to explain things in simple terms, to help speed up that adoption rate, and so, a test for me of whether or not a trend has taken off is, “Can the average consumer describe that technology?”

That’s where I would say with VR, we’re not quite there yet. I can think of immediate family members…I work in this industry, and probably my dad cannot explain to you what VR is yet.

He may never use it, and he may never be a heavy user of it, but he can tell you what Netflix is. He knows what Spotify is. He can describe that streaming technology that was truly so foreign to us, even five years ago.

Mike: There’s no doubt VR has a lot of things going for it right now. The question is, can we get to an accessibility point? You could argue with the need to have a smartphone and a smartphone accessory as the lowest common entry point. Is that still the lowest common entry point?

Katie: Yeah, I think so.

Mike: There still needs to be some innovation. I guess, really, Google Cardboard, but that uses a smartphone, too?

Katie: Right, yeah, you still have to have a smartphone or…

[crosstalk]

Mike: I wonder what’s next to allow mass adoption, multiple units per household, for instance, to allow this to be a true group experience, versus lock myself in the room, and it’s my time to have the VR headset and the smartphone of the house.

Justin: I think that there is a lot of value in VR, but to me, the real holy grail of “R” is AR. The difference between AR and VR is VR is for entertainment, but AR will fundamentally change how we interact with the world around us.

That, I think, is when you get into having multiple headsets, and people collaborating, and it’s like a group experience, because it takes a normal situation and adds the metaverse on top of that.

There’s a lot of things that you gain in doing that that you can’t really get through VR, or just through having a conversation, watching a movie in your living room, or whatever.

Mike: Maybe VR is like a gateway technology to understanding the power of what this could be. The way you’re describing AR, is it also referred to as mixed reality?

Justin: I don’t technically know if it’s exactly the same thing, but yeah, I think an overlap of…

Mike: Let me go to our producer. Is that the same thing?

Producer: Yes.

Mike: We got affirmative.

Justin: We got a thumbs‑up.

Katie: [laughs] That’s an interesting point, Justin. My head was right in that same space as when we were talking about connected home. Mike made the point that was like, we’ve really reached the tipping point. We’ve really reached the point where this isn’t a trend anymore when the utility can be proven.

I think that’s the case with VR. Right now, it’s still seen as an entertainment function, or truthfully, a bit of a novelty. I know we’ve used that word a lot today.

At the point where we see that technology being integrated in ways that benefit businesses, and training, and education, then, I think we’re really going to see it fundamentally change the way we live day‑to‑day, versus it’s VR time/it’s not VR time. Just like back with the mobile phone, that seemed like such a novelty, and now, it’s unthinkable that you’d go out of the house without it.

Justin: That’s the thing, with any new technology like that, especially to begin with, it’s just going to be like a cool trick.

As time goes by, and there is more and more adoption, and more and more people get their hands on this thing, it will really start to…if it has the possibility to do that, which I think the augmented reality really does, is it will start to shift into places that people never even really thought that it would go into to begin with, and there will be huge swaths of value that will open up.

In taking this technology and pointing it in a direction where you can get more than just like a, “Oh, that’s pretty cool,” out of it, where it becomes like a useful thing, and then, we start to rely on that, eventually. Like cars and everything else.

Mike: Even thinking about what our professional anchor is here, which is marketing. Having obviously experienced some work in the VR realm—and that’s still really interesting, and fruitful, worth exploring—the idea of mixed reality or augmented reality probably will add more value to the buyer’s journey long‑term than what you would define as really VR, now.

Justin: Yeah, AR, it just has a lot more legs. Where VR just stops at your face, whereas augmented reality stops at anything that you can imagine in your sphere of vision.

Mike: No, your face.

Justin: My face, right.

Katie: [laughs]

Mike: Right.

Justin: VR fundamentally is an isolating experience, where augmented reality actually brings more into the space that you’re in, instead of taking you out of the space where you are.

Katie: Absolutely, that’s interesting.

Mike: Let me ask the group a question. What of the three areas we talked about has the best chance to evolve into something much bigger next year? We talked about IoT, specifically the consumer use cases like smart home and those consumer ecosystems. We talked about mobile payments and we talked about VR.

Katie, what is going to explode next year?

Katie: [laughs] It’s always hard to say. I guess out of those three, the choice for me is obvious, because it’s everything, right? The Internet of Things, I think it’s no longer going to become a category, much in the way that we talk about technology.

Technology is not a specific thing. There aren’t things that are tech and aren’t. It will be everything is connected and everything is a technology.

I don’t know that it’s actually going to fully happen in 2017. There’s certainly a trajectory there, but the components are there. I think the signs are pointing to people are bridging the gaps; they’re expanding their ecosystem of products and making them talk to one another. It’s really up to brands to prove that they’re the one for customers in that journey.

Mike: Justin, which area are you placing your bet on?

Justin: I’m going to have to go with VR, partially because I picked it…

Katie: [laughs]

Justin: …but also, I feel like whereas I agree with Katie that the Internet of Things will become more and more popular, this year specifically, but also moving forward, the barrier of entry to that is pretty high, and also the cost associated with that is high, which is part of that.

Whereas VR is, yeah, like we talked about, is you walk down the aisle at Walmart, and there’s a pair of goggles that you can put your phone into for, like 15 bucks or something.

I feel like because the barrier of entry is so low with VR, this next year that that’s going to be really more popular…I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be more popular, but I think it will really start to become really prevalent.

Katie: Can’t tiptoe your way out of it now, Justin.

Justin: [laughs]

Katie: What about you, Mike?

Mike: I think the one with the more traditional, I guess, rate of change for what you would say is exponential is VR. Like Justin said, many fewer barriers. I think the one that’s going to take off of all these, just to not answer the way Justin did.

The one that’s, I think, going to be more difficult, because there’s certain stakeholders that have to still get onboard, is mobile payments, which is sad because I can definitely see the utility of getting there. I think those barriers feel out of the control of what is currently in the market to allow it so.

Katie: I would agree with that.

Justin: Yeah.

Katie: I think that’s all the time we have for today. We are certainly interested in hearing your thoughts on the trends of 2016 that just didn’t quite come to fruition.

Of course, in the coming months, we will be talking about some of our predictions for the coming year, what we think is going to be big in the world of technology and marketing for technology brands. In the meantime, holler at us on Twitter or social media channels and let us know what were you most surprised by in 2016 when it comes to tech trends?

Thanks for listening to Technically Human and we will talk to you soon.

Mike: Ignite Partnership is the marketing agency for technology companies that want to understand and capitalize on complex buyer journeys. Ignite has brought life to tech since 2009. To find out more, visit ignitepartnership.com.

 

2016 In Review: Tech Trends That Didn’t Triumph


Technically Human: Episode 6
December 27, 2016

2016 was an interesting year, to say the least. The tech world was no different, with trends that covered wearables, AI, the Internet of Things, VR and more. In our latest episode of Technically Human, we take a look back at our favorite tech trends of the year to see which ones soared—and which ones fizzled. We also look ahead to what tech could be trending up next year.

Transcript

[background music]

Katie Cantu: Hi there. I’m Katie Cantu, strategist at Ignite Partnership.

Mike Covert: I’m Mike Covert, founder of Ignite Partnership.

Katie: You’re listening to “Technically Human,” where marketing experts talk about how to find the soul in technology products and services. What really makes humans tick when it comes to tech? Join us on our cultural expedition to find out.

This week on Technically Human, we’re taking a minute to look back at the rise and fall of 2016 tech trends. ‘Tis the season for 2017 predictions, but what about last year’s predictions?

As a marketing agency for technology companies, we can’t help but geek out over the latest and greatest technologies and take note of their adoption rate, especially when it seems slower than predicted.

Before we get down to business, I want to introduce you to our special guest this week, Justin Young. Justin is one of our digital creative directors here at Ignite Partnership.

Justin Young: Hey, guys.

Katie: Justin, you want to tell us a little bit about what you do at Ignite?

Justin: Sure…basically, if it’s anything nerdy, I’m into it, and I’m checking it out. Also, I’m the digital creative director here—if it’s on a screen, and sometimes even if it’s not, I’m usually involved.

Katie: Perfect. Also today, we have our usual host, Mike Covert, back in the studio with us.

Mike: Thanks for letting me back, Katie.

Katie: [laughs]

Mike: I’ll try to be better this time.

Katie: No, we missed you. It’s good to have you back.

Mike: Awesome.

Katie: To kick things off, we have each decided to pick one technology trend that was supposed to reach its tipping point in 2016. Then we ask ourselves, “Did this actually happen?”

Mike: It’s also easy to see, if you’ve been in the business as long as we have, that every year some of those trends keep reappearing.

Katie: Let’s go ahead and talk about some of the categories that we picked. Mike, you want to start us off?

Mike: Yeah. I find this exercise really interesting. One acronym came to life to me right away. It’s probably dominating the trends for the last few years, and that’s IoT, or Internet of Things.

This time, I wanted to make sure we looked at it from a consumer point of view, versus a business point of view. Machine‑to‑machine learning and interaction has been going on for quite some time. The real tipping point is how it affects consumer lives.

This is an industry that’s been projected to grow 36 percent a year from now until 2020. That is hard to sustain. This is projected to be over 13 billion live consumer devices, according to research, by 2020.

Katie: Wow.

Mike: I hope you did your part, Justin. Do you have your wearable on?

Justin: Yes, I do.

Mike: Katie, I know you’re a fan of this space, and really what this space is, the way I think about it, connected home, connected auto, your little mobile ecosystem that involves wearables.

How do you have individual consumer devices that talk to each other that make things either more convenient, or contextually more relevant, as you go about your daily life?

Katie: Right. In looking at that, what did you find, Mike? Did you see that the consumer adoption rate did take off the way that it predicted? I suspect not, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Mike: I went less by…I can’t figure out if it met expectations necessarily this year. For instance, Apple just reported its largest smartwatch quarter ever, right?

Katie: Right.

Mike: There’s definitely signs that people are adopting technology like wearables and bolstering their ecosystem with smart locks and security devices for their homes. You can kind of see it everywhere.

What I was wondering, and why this made my list, is it just doesn’t seem to be as pervasive from an individual life standpoint. We’re more technophile maybe than a lot of folks, maybe?

Katie: Yep.

Mike: I’m thinking about the mainstream component of what will allow it to grow at that rate, and that’s what I see some hesitancy on. That’s what made me curious.

I’ll ask you guys outright. Do you think that your friends, family—just you watching the world from a window—do you think they’re jumping up on this IoT bandwagon?

Justin: I think to a certain…you go through the store, and you see smart home things that you can talk to—Google, or whatever that thing is they have. I don’t know the name of it—like a Siri equivalent or Amazon equivalent.

But that’s the thing…13 billion sounds like a lot, but it is a lot if it’s one phone that you have in your pocket, but when your windows are online, or every tile that’s on your roof, like the Tesla solar roof that they’re coming out with later this year—I can’t specifically say that each of those things will be online.

It’s a multiplying effect, and as time goes by, especially right now, maybe you don’t upgrade the house that you have, but starting this year and moving forward, more and more pieces of your house are going to be coming online as time goes by.

To your point, did it actually take off this year? Is this a wholly adopted thing? That is probably questionable to say that.

Katie: Holy adoption.

Justin: Is that a thing? Did I coin a new phrase?

[laughter]

Mike: I thought he also said that each individual smart tile is going to count as a unit towards the 20 billion.

Justin: You don’t think that’s how they’re counting it?

Mike: I don’t know. Why would they, as opposed to one roof. What’s smart? Is it the tile, or is it the roof? Is it the flock, or is it the sheep?

Justin: I say individual pieces. For instance, your windows, you wouldn’t count all the windows as your house as one device. Those are individual devices. If you have 20 windows, that’s 20 devices right there, just windows.

Katie: That’s interesting. Mike, you and I were actually talking about this a couple of days ago, because we each made our list of the predictions that we saw from 2016, and it was like, “What struck a chord with us that really didn’t reach its tipping point?” This one did not make my list.

Several other things did, but the reason it didn’t make my list is because for me and my family, 2016 was the year of the connected home. We got AT&T Digital Life, which is connected home security. We also invested in the Amazon Echo, which interfaces with some of that.

My husband bought me a smartwatch, which controls stuff at the house. For me, and for some of my immediate family, it’s easy to see that that adoption rate has taken off, but I’ll tell you what I can really empathize with is some of the hurdles to adopting this connected home lifestyle.

Did you see a lot of that, Mike? I have my own thoughts there, but…

Mike: If you had to guess, what is one of the more common hurdles? I found two.

Katie: Yeah, for me, from personal experience, it was taking the leap, being willing to invest in this, but then running into the issue of, “Things don’t talk to each other yet,” it’s like you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, because that basket doesn’t do everything yet, but your eggs can’t talk to each other, either. [laughs]

Mike: It reminds me of that beautiful time when there’s one technology that allows you to jump. Think back to the first DVR, TiVo. There was, either you TiVo’d or you didn’t. It allowed for mass adoption, but now for the newer entries, you do have choices.

I find the complexity is listed quite a bit, not just in seamless interfaces or ecosystems, but also in user interface. Also, in “What is the value it’s bringing to you?” Health and fitness is the most common reason, or Katie, in your case, home security.

Beyond that, what is truly necessary versus novel? As you make that leap, especially if something’s more expensive, novel just doesn’t translate into experimenting.

Justin: The way I think about technologies, it’s not necessarily the things that we do that change, it’s how we do them.

Whereas, you could think that they are a novelty, or they seem like a novelty in some instances, there are also a lot of instances, maybe, that we haven’t even implemented yet, or that people are working on, or they haven’t really worked out all the kinks of it.

Any opportunity where you can make things easier for people, and basically give them back more time, or take out steps to them accomplishing something, there’s an opportunity for large adoption there, because obviously, people are busy. They’re overworked, and if you can…

Even though it might be a novelty to show your friend that you can unlock your front door from your phone or whatever, whenever you really want that package from FedEx, and you’re not home, and you see from your doorbell camera that the FedEx guy’s there, and you can speakerphone him through your doorbell, suddenly that becomes a very valuable thing—whereas before, it was just a novelty.

Mike: I think that’s a really good point, Justin, and as marketers, that’s our job. There’s complexity in the way of making this choice. We’re not the only ones saying it. You can read the reports. You can see that it is a confusing thing to just jump into in an impulse way. As marketers, how can we paint those stories that show the true benefit of doing this?

And also, how can we make it really easy to understand how to jump into it, that you’re not going to make a mistake, that you’re not going to be like me. Buy a smart thing, and then have to end up buying ten other smart things to make the original smart thing work, which happened to me recently. I’m not bitter.

[laughter]

Justin: Yeah, just to jump in. Also, part of the reason why a lot of these things don’t talk to each other is because it’s so new, and as this ecosystem grows, it’s going to be more and more cumbersome to get all these things to talk together.

They’re going to have to figure out ways to make it really easy for people to integrate this stuff. Otherwise, they won’t use it. If it’s too hard to use, people are just going to skip it.

Mike: But if we don’t figure out how to solve what you just said, and paint those pictures, I wonder how patient the buying public is going to be to allow for the growth that’s been projected, including what was really the first year is expected to be mass adoption, which was really this year, in the home, and in everyone’s personal life.

There’s one more reason that they expect this may not come to fruition. Do you all know what that is?

Katie: Nope. What is it?

Mike: Security. You’ve all heard the tale about the smart teddy bear that gets hacked by a satanic cult master.

Justin: I have heard that one.

Mike: Right?

[laughter]

Mike: And then suddenly, you find out because it was insecure that your child is listening to messages from a stranger that you didn’t expect in your home, right?

Katie: Right.

Mike: I don’t know that that actually happened, and I wonder if people actually care that much, but Katie, imagine what you’d think if I told you 75 percent of smart locks have recently been proven to be compromised? How does that smart lock feel now?

Justin: But to…

Katie: Not so smart.

[laughter]

Justin: Yeah, a smart lock, that’s fine, but also, what percentage of traditional locks can be compromised by a locksmith if he wanted to get in? It’s almost 100 percent.

Katie: Right, 100 percent.

Mike: Or, my foot.

[laughter]

Justin: A lot of the times, people are afraid about their information floating around, and all this and that, but the reality is [that] there’s security in the anonymity of this thing. Because everybody’s information is all floating around, the likelihood you getting picked off out of that crowd is almost zero.

In most cases, that’s the thing. It might be that 75 percent of these locks could…or have been proven that you can break the security in these things and get inside, but what’s really the likelihood of that happening to you? Almost zero.

Mike: I actually think, just looking at a list of reasons that people believe there may be barriers to getting to this mass adoption, I believe this one is not there. It’s just commonly cited.

I think a large part of the public has already come to peace with the fact that our stuff is out there, accessible by a lot of people that we don’t know or necessarily like, and this is just a new step in that. I don’t really believe that’s going to be a differentiator for you and your smart lock.

Katie: One thing I was going to add: When we were talking earlier about the competition and the multiple options that are out there and how at least one of the big barriers for me has been that things don’t talk to each other. What if I buy something, and then it’s not compatible?

As marketers, I think we have a unique opportunity to position brands as your go‑to source for a connected home. As we work with the Samsungs of the world, we’re able to tell a story about the connected home and get people into an ecosystem. There’s a real unique chance to leverage the loyalty play.

Mike: I think, to your point, that makes a lot of sense. If it’s just one thing that you have in your home, maybe it’s not really…there’s not enough weight there to pull you into that system, but a lot of stuff that I’ve read, it’s like in order to get somebody to switch from something that they have right now that works for them, it has to be ten times as better.

If you’re switching from one phone to another, one type of home security system to another, OK, maybe, maybe not, if it seems like the same thing. I can’t really tell. But if suddenly it’s like, “Oh, no. My roof is online, my windows…”

It uses this one ecosystem, and you don’t have to do anything except call a phone number, and they’re like, “Yeah, we’ll have it on Thursday,” then, that’s really what will get this moving forward, I feel like.

It’s not just one little piece here and there like a lot of companies are doing right now, but integrating all these things together. That’s really where the value will come from, and people will start to recognize that more.

Katie: It’s funny. I grew up as a kid watching shows like “The Jetsons…”

[theme song plays]

Katie: …is the one I always think about when I think about technology and the connected home.

Justin, I’m sure you’ve thought about it this way, because you have very much of a developer mind, but as a kid and growing up and hearing, “There’s going to be flying cars…”

[spacecraft sound effect]

Katie: …and all of these technologies that we can’t even imagine.

Justin: I’m on board. Let’s do it.

Katie: It never crossed my mind, “Oh, there’s going to be different types of these things, and they might not all work together. You would watch The Jetsons, and everything was just seamless.

They weren’t choosing between a brand. Things weren’t malfunctioning. I’m sure that’s always been in the back of your mind, but for somebody who doesn’t have that development background, I don’t know. I didn’t consider that there would be operating systems for things.

Justin: Yeah, you don’t ever see George Jetson getting frustrated and throwing his phone across the room. That doesn’t happen.

[laughter]

Justin: Apple’s a good example of closed systems. You can’t really hook other pieces in unless it’s Apple. Until there are more systems like that that integrate everything, there’s going to have to be go‑between bridges that you can use to cobble these things together.

In the interim, that’s very frustrating for people that are novice, like for instance, my parents. They would never do that, but me, I would sit all weekend and figure out how to turn on my porch light from Africa or something. Do you know what I mean?

I would spend a ridiculous amount of time on this thing to do this cool little party trick, but for me, that’s easy, and I’m interested in it. It’s a lot harder for people to…when things don’t work together that way, for them to even bother with it.

Mike: I think until this gets more intuitive for the mass buying public that can allow a trend like this to come to fruition, it just won’t. It’ll be specialized, it’ll be niche, versus at some point, can you imagine a home without some sort of way to record content? It’s probably out there, but it just it seems almost baseline now.

At some point, having a video player or a camera on your doorbell to be able to open up the door for the FedEx man or woman from afar, that will probably be the kind of baseline, but I think we need to make it a lot simpler first.

Katie: Totally agree.

Mike: IoT. What else, Katie? What else did you notice that may or may not have met the expectations of ’16?

Katie: A couple of things made my list, but ultimately, what was at the top of that list was mobile payments. I feel like we’re going on about, at least year two, potentially year three, of everybody saying, “This is the year.”

Especially with wearables really taking off, the Samsung Gear, and having Apple Pay on a watch, the Wallet, I think everybody kind of expected us to all be walking around, holding our watches up to credit card scanners and swiping from our phone.

I’m really not seeing that, and the truth is, I actually…in the past months, and since I have gotten a smart watch, have tried to use that and thought, “Huh. That might be kind of convenient.”

What’s interesting about it is despite me getting over the consumer hurdle of being able to do that, I’ve found a lot of places still are not capable of facilitating that transaction. What about you guys? Do you use any type of mobile payment?

Justin: Yeah, I do. I like it. Of course, I’m a super nerd, any kind of stuff like that I’m immediately on board.

It’s cool, but that’s the thing, is it doesn’t make my life that much better. It doesn’t make my life that much easier.

It’s a fun trick to do for people, and a lot of times when I do it, I’m very self‑conscious about bringing attention to myself. Doing that in the store, everybody’s like, “Oh, well look at you,” and I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, I know, but like, I want to try this thing out. It’s super fun.” It’s a cool trick, but I personally feel that it brings too much attention to me.

Mike: It’s interesting that you said, “It’s a cool trick,” because that’s how it does feel. It feels, like we said before, earlier, talking about IoT, it still feels really novel, like you have to really try to use your mobile payments. It doesn’t go as intuitive as it could be.

Unlike drawing attention to myself, though, Justin—I love your story, but I feel the opposite when I try and be that guy in line that’s going to use mobile payments. I’m honestly actively discouraged from people on the other side of the POS machine.

They say, “No, no, we don’t do that,” when they might. It’s amazing how hesitant it is even from a retailer perspective. Maybe they don’t understand it, but I don’t find that number one, I’m being encouraged to change my average payment behavior.

Katie: Interesting.

Justin: I think you’re right in that, because there’s a lot of places that I go to, they still don’t even take a chip card, and the reason is because they have to switch out their whole system, and it’s expensive and all of that.

I think that both of those things came at the same time, and more and more, I see them together, where you can use mobile payments, and you can use a chip, but it’s like both‑or‑none type situation.

Katie: Yeah, you brought up the chip, Justin, and I think that’s a really good point, because what I see as one of the major barriers to mobile payments having taken off in 2016 is that you’ve probably noticed retailers nationwide have switched to these chip readers, and it’s been expensive. It’s been a huge investment for them to switch to that.

What they did—and this is really a huge miss, and it’s hard to say who’s to blame, or to point the finger here, but a lot of those, like Justin said, they are combo card readers that will read the chip, and then they also have NFC technology. Some of them are not, and they don’t have the NFC capability.

Companies who just invested, honestly, millions and millions of dollars upgrading their hardware here to take the chip reader, and then didn’t add on the NFC capability, it’s going to be a long time before they go back and switch so that they can accommodate things like the Apple Wallet or Samsung Pay. The truth is, there’s really nothing in it for them as a retailer right now.

Mike: Who’s pushing it? What is the force behind mobile payment? What’s the major stakeholder really pushing this, and what do they get?

Justin: The stakeholders are the people that are manufacturing this technology and promoting it to be like, “Oh, this is cool. I need to get that.”

Katie: I think it’s an interesting category, because there are so many stakeholders and players, and some of them are not the usual suspects. You have Apple, who’s created the Wallet; you have Samsung, who’s got Samsung Pay and has partnered with credit cards.

We’ve also seen banks come out this year with their own proprietary form of mobile payment. That’s in an effort to get somebody to switch and join a different financial institution to take advantage of their proprietary technology.

Justin: It’s funny that you mentioned that, because Walmart is developing their own digital wallet-type system.

When I first got my watch, I was like, “Oh, cool.” I’d go to Walmart, because I knew that they had NFC stuff in their registers, and it’s like, “No, we don’t do that here.”

Then I start seeing, as time went on, more and more things of like, Walmart Pay, I think is what they call it. In that regard, there is a lot of incentive for retailers to do that. It’s the equivalent of a Neiman Marcus card or something.

Katie: Right. The other thing I think is interesting is we’re talking about this…we’re referring to it as mobile payments, but actually, the primary way that I have used this, dipped my toes into this technology…

I can’t say that I didn’t feel really similar to the way that Justin described, which was like I attracted way too much attention to myself, but there was a good use case there, more than just novelty.

I travel quite a bit, and so, I have the Apple Watch my husband bought for me, which in and of itself has been pretty novel. One thing I really like about it is it has the Wallet on there, you can add your boarding pass to the Wallet on your watch.

Instead of trekking around the airport holding all of your bags, and your phone in your hand that contains your boarding pass, or digging in your bag to pull that out, you’re able to pull it up on your watch and scan it to get on the plane.

I really liked that, because I’m always doing the airport shuffle, which is where I’m about to drop something and step on a pretzel I just bought.

But when I did this, I was at Virgin Atlantic, and they were like, “What? We’ve never seen that before,” and then people were like…

Justin: Really? That place hasn’t seen that?

Katie: Yes, which, of all airlines—I love Virgin, big fan of them. If you’re interested in sponsoring my partnership, feel free to contact us.

But yeah, I was surprised that they hadn’t seen it, because they have an app, and are usually on top of their tech game. Then of course, everybody looked out of line.

One person was like, “That doesn’t work here,” and then it did work, and they were like, “Well, I didn’t know that worked.” It was too much. I actually considered it the next time. I was like, “I don’t think I’m going to do it.”

Mike: I think you make a really good point about a clear use case. There is a clear convenience benefit to this.

There’s also a clear benefit on the other side, which is closer access to people’s purchase decisions and regular decisions, for someone that may want to sponsor this and really get hold of the data to make Katie’s world easier in even other ways, and anticipate what she needs besides boarding Virgin, which what? You fly once a week, twice a week?

Katie: No. [laughs]

Mike: Four times a week?

Katie: No. Justin, what about you? We’ve talked about a couple of different things. We’ve talked about Internet of Things, connected home, mobile payments. What made your list? What stood out to you as, “Oh my gosh, we’ve been hearing about this for years, and…nothing.”

Justin: Two letters: VR.

Katie: Really?

Justin: Yes. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great. I love it. It’s awesome. It’s super fun, but leading up to this year, and even this whole year, still, you hear about it a lot. That’s the thing is you hear about it a lot, but I don’t feel like it’s as publicly adopted as it is made out to be a lot of the time.

I also don’t think that there is…just recently has it really started to take hold, I feel. I don’t mean recently like in the last six or nine months. I mean in the last four or five weeks, really, in my opinion.

Katie: Yeah, that’s fair.

Justin: To give you a perfect example, I went to GameStop probably three or four weeks ago. I just got an Xbox, I’m like, “OK, I’m super gung‑ho about video games. I’ve got to go to GameStop and check it out.”

I walk in. They have an attendant there that has the new PlayStation with the virtual reality goggles and all this. He cleans it off for you and everything. I sat down and played a game, and it was cool. Yeah, it was cool, but the thing is…this is the end of October, and there’s still an…

It’s such a…not a novelty. It’s such a new thing still that Sony feels the need to have a representative there to explain how this thing works, and show people, “Here’s how you hold the controllers. Here’s how you use this thing.”

In addition to that point, I was walking through Walmart the other day, and I saw a stacked up display in the aisle, like they have in the middle, of VR goggles. It was probably like a thousand pairs sitting there.

I was like, “OK, now”—in my opinion—“now, this is going to be a pretty proliferating thing,” especially once it goes into places like Walmart, it’s going to be everywhere. They had a lot of them sitting there, of course, in anticipation for Christmas.

I really feel like next year is going to be where VR becomes really a mainstay in entertainment for people.

Katie: It’s interesting that you mentioned Walmart, because just last night, I was at JCPenney doing some Christmas shopping, and in the line there, they have all of the “As Seen on TV” gifts, and then, Sharper Image comes out of the woodwork and has some holiday stuff there.

Then, there was this…I couldn’t even tell you what brand it was. It was a no‑name brand. It was like, “Virtual reality headset,” and I thought, “OK, here we go,” right?

Justin: Yeah, now, it’s a thing.

Katie: Somebody’s grandparents are going to be in line and be like, “I’ve heard the kids talking about that,” and grab one of those. I’m not sure if it’ll work with any smart device, but for it to be in the checkout line of JCPenney was like, “Huh. OK. Maybe we’re getting somewhere.”

Justin: Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw it, too. I was like, “OK, somebody’s grandma is going to hear that their grandson is really interested in virtual reality, and she’s like, ‘Oh, this would be a great gift for Johnny.’”

To give another example, did you guys do the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 360 VR video experience? Did you guys see that?

Mike: No.

Justin: They only said it a couple of times during the parade, but I’d heard about it leading up to that. It was really cool. They had different viewpoints from around the city.

I used to live in New York, it was cool to be able to put these goggles on, look around and see, “Oh, yeah, I remember what’s behind Macy’s, and I remember what’s over here. You can see the whole city.” For me, that was cool because it reminded me of living there.

But my family came over for Thanksgiving dinner, and I was showing them this thing. Their minds were exploding. They had never seen anything like this before, and like I said, here it is, the end of the year almost, and they had never looked at any of this stuff before. They were blown away by how cool it was.

Mike: I guess it comes down to this. What makes for a trend? I can say quite confidently that VR at the end of ’16 is a very different beast than VR at the beginning of ’16. There are now multiple ways to get involved. The content available to enjoy it is through the roof now compared to where it was even 12 months ago.

You could argue that when different generations that probably need to be introduced by another generation that’s closer to technology are now asking for it, or involved, seeing the commercials, wondering what it is…

That tells me the foundation is there, that this really possibly has been the year of VR, even though to your point, Justin, the maturity of it will certainly take another step forward next year, because now, there’s a proven market to invest further in it. But you needed ’16 to have ’17.

Justin: I don’t disagree with that. I see your point, but also the thing is too, is when people first…when Netflix came out, I don’t consider early adoption to be the “official year” of whatever this thing is.

To me, that’s like you said, it’s the lead‑up to that. Now, Netflix is a thing, for sure, undeniable, whereas leading up to this year, it was like, “Well, is this really going to be the year for VR, or is it going to be next year?” It’s squishy there.

It wasn’t until really just the last few months, I feel like, to where it was like, “OK, everybody, we’re doing this. Here we go.”

Katie: I think another test will be—and we do this all the time as marketers…it’s our job to explain things in simple terms, to help speed up that adoption rate, and so, a test for me of whether or not a trend has taken off is, “Can the average consumer describe that technology?”

That’s where I would say with VR, we’re not quite there yet. I can think of immediate family members…I work in this industry, and probably my dad cannot explain to you what VR is yet.

He may never use it, and he may never be a heavy user of it, but he can tell you what Netflix is. He knows what Spotify is. He can describe that streaming technology that was truly so foreign to us, even five years ago.

Mike: There’s no doubt VR has a lot of things going for it right now. The question is, can we get to an accessibility point? You could argue with the need to have a smartphone and a smartphone accessory as the lowest common entry point. Is that still the lowest common entry point?

Katie: Yeah, I think so.

Mike: There still needs to be some innovation. I guess, really, Google Cardboard, but that uses a smartphone, too?

Katie: Right, yeah, you still have to have a smartphone or…

[crosstalk]

Mike: I wonder what’s next to allow mass adoption, multiple units per household, for instance, to allow this to be a true group experience, versus lock myself in the room, and it’s my time to have the VR headset and the smartphone of the house.

Justin: I think that there is a lot of value in VR, but to me, the real holy grail of “R” is AR. The difference between AR and VR is VR is for entertainment, but AR will fundamentally change how we interact with the world around us.

That, I think, is when you get into having multiple headsets, and people collaborating, and it’s like a group experience, because it takes a normal situation and adds the metaverse on top of that.

There’s a lot of things that you gain in doing that that you can’t really get through VR, or just through having a conversation, watching a movie in your living room, or whatever.

Mike: Maybe VR is like a gateway technology to understanding the power of what this could be. The way you’re describing AR, is it also referred to as mixed reality?

Justin: I don’t technically know if it’s exactly the same thing, but yeah, I think an overlap of…

Mike: Let me go to our producer. Is that the same thing?

Producer: Yes.

Mike: We got affirmative.

Justin: We got a thumbs‑up.

Katie: [laughs] That’s an interesting point, Justin. My head was right in that same space as when we were talking about connected home. Mike made the point that was like, we’ve really reached the tipping point. We’ve really reached the point where this isn’t a trend anymore when the utility can be proven.

I think that’s the case with VR. Right now, it’s still seen as an entertainment function, or truthfully, a bit of a novelty. I know we’ve used that word a lot today.

At the point where we see that technology being integrated in ways that benefit businesses, and training, and education, then, I think we’re really going to see it fundamentally change the way we live day‑to‑day, versus it’s VR time/it’s not VR time. Just like back with the mobile phone, that seemed like such a novelty, and now, it’s unthinkable that you’d go out of the house without it.

Justin: That’s the thing, with any new technology like that, especially to begin with, it’s just going to be like a cool trick.

As time goes by, and there is more and more adoption, and more and more people get their hands on this thing, it will really start to…if it has the possibility to do that, which I think the augmented reality really does, is it will start to shift into places that people never even really thought that it would go into to begin with, and there will be huge swaths of value that will open up.

In taking this technology and pointing it in a direction where you can get more than just like a, “Oh, that’s pretty cool,” out of it, where it becomes like a useful thing, and then, we start to rely on that, eventually. Like cars and everything else.

Mike: Even thinking about what our professional anchor is here, which is marketing. Having obviously experienced some work in the VR realm—and that’s still really interesting, and fruitful, worth exploring—the idea of mixed reality or augmented reality probably will add more value to the buyer’s journey long‑term than what you would define as really VR, now.

Justin: Yeah, AR, it just has a lot more legs. Where VR just stops at your face, whereas augmented reality stops at anything that you can imagine in your sphere of vision.

Mike: No, your face.

Justin: My face, right.

Katie: [laughs]

Mike: Right.

Justin: VR fundamentally is an isolating experience, where augmented reality actually brings more into the space that you’re in, instead of taking you out of the space where you are.

Katie: Absolutely, that’s interesting.

Mike: Let me ask the group a question. What of the three areas we talked about has the best chance to evolve into something much bigger next year? We talked about IoT, specifically the consumer use cases like smart home and those consumer ecosystems. We talked about mobile payments and we talked about VR.

Katie, what is going to explode next year?

Katie: [laughs] It’s always hard to say. I guess out of those three, the choice for me is obvious, because it’s everything, right? The Internet of Things, I think it’s no longer going to become a category, much in the way that we talk about technology.

Technology is not a specific thing. There aren’t things that are tech and aren’t. It will be everything is connected and everything is a technology.

I don’t know that it’s actually going to fully happen in 2017. There’s certainly a trajectory there, but the components are there. I think the signs are pointing to people are bridging the gaps; they’re expanding their ecosystem of products and making them talk to one another. It’s really up to brands to prove that they’re the one for customers in that journey.

Mike: Justin, which area are you placing your bet on?

Justin: I’m going to have to go with VR, partially because I picked it…

Katie: [laughs]

Justin: …but also, I feel like whereas I agree with Katie that the Internet of Things will become more and more popular, this year specifically, but also moving forward, the barrier of entry to that is pretty high, and also the cost associated with that is high, which is part of that.

Whereas VR is, yeah, like we talked about, is you walk down the aisle at Walmart, and there’s a pair of goggles that you can put your phone into for, like 15 bucks or something.

I feel like because the barrier of entry is so low with VR, this next year that that’s going to be really more popular…I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be more popular, but I think it will really start to become really prevalent.

Katie: Can’t tiptoe your way out of it now, Justin.

Justin: [laughs]

Katie: What about you, Mike?

Mike: I think the one with the more traditional, I guess, rate of change for what you would say is exponential is VR. Like Justin said, many fewer barriers. I think the one that’s going to take off of all these, just to not answer the way Justin did.

The one that’s, I think, going to be more difficult, because there’s certain stakeholders that have to still get onboard, is mobile payments, which is sad because I can definitely see the utility of getting there. I think those barriers feel out of the control of what is currently in the market to allow it so.

Katie: I would agree with that.

Justin: Yeah.

Katie: I think that’s all the time we have for today. We are certainly interested in hearing your thoughts on the trends of 2016 that just didn’t quite come to fruition.

Of course, in the coming months, we will be talking about some of our predictions for the coming year, what we think is going to be big in the world of technology and marketing for technology brands. In the meantime, holler at us on Twitter or social media channels and let us know what were you most surprised by in 2016 when it comes to tech trends?

Thanks for listening to Technically Human and we will talk to you soon.

Mike: Ignite Partnership is the marketing agency for technology companies that want to understand and capitalize on complex buyer journeys. Ignite has brought life to tech since 2009. To find out more, visit ignitepartnership.com.