Seeing CES Through a Different Lens: Snapchat Spectacles

sunglasses     I went to my first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year.  I arrived to the massive tradeshow, which spanned 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space, ready to experience the latest in tech and innovation.  And as I had put an exorbitant amount of time into preparing for the tradeshow, I went into the conference prepared in terms of what the trends would be, which brands would make noise and which exhibits were a must-see.     

The wildcard in the mix was that I had decided to experience my first CES through a slightly different lens than anyone else: Snapchat Spectacles.   I wore the Spectacles on the tradeshow floor, during conferences and at nighttime events around Vegas, recording and “sharing” everything from Spotify’s Opening Party to NASA’s AR exhibit.   

After four days behind the lens of the Spectacles, it became clear that even in the high-tech world, sometimes the best way to connect to our audiences is through a pure and honest story.  Simplicity at its best.

Storytelling Magic:  

The idea to wear Snapchat Spectacles was born not only out of the desire to try out the new tech, but also to be able to record my first CES experience without constantly needing to pull out my camera or phone.  The way the Spectacles work is that they record exactly what you are seeing, directly from your eyeballs’ line of sight.  It is not a hand held camera.  It is not a 360 drone.  It is instead a much more natural, human experience.  I was able to capture exactly what I saw, what I touched, and what conversations I had face-to-face with exhibitors.  I could laser focus within each booth to explore what was intriguing to me while sharing my experience directly as I was seeing it in real time.  I touched (and secretly recorded) plants in an iGrow’s vertical farm, interacted with an LG touchscreen robot and transformed my face with the Modiface AR beauty mirror – all while wearing the Spectacles and recording hands-free. 

I controlled what story I told, simply by where I moved my eyeballs to.  I could show my audience exactly what I wanted them to see, so they could discover along with me while also paying attention to the details I thought were important (and that I wanted them to see).  It was storytelling magic. 

In a room full of robots, humans wanted to connect:  

One of the first things I noticed during CES was the lack of human-to-human interaction in comparison to the human-to-AI interaction.  The booths that were filled with just humans (even models) were often deserted, while the booths with robots, drones or VR were the ones gathering crowds.  I walked past a speaker sound system booth with a band playing live music, but no one was listening.  Just next to it, was a packed booth with Mayfield’s Kuri robot.  Even a famous MMA fighter got little interaction compared to LG’s smart fridge. 

However, when I was wearing the Spectacles, I found myself having more human-to-human interaction than when I wasn’t wearing them. During Robot Wars the commentators interrupted the show to excitedly ask if they were being “snapped” and to yell out their hashtags in hopes of making it into the 10-second video.  While in a conference on “Smarter Cities”, a group of international members turned around to ask where they could find them.   Some stopped me in the conference wings to ask if there was AR technology included in the glasses, while others asked to try them on.  And I found myself having an easier time getting exhibitors to interact with me while I was wearing the Spectacles.  

In a conference filled with artificial life, robots, and virtual reality, we were having real physical interactions versus just putting on a VR headset and pressing “go” to disappear into another world. 

Because the Spectacles are designed like sunglasses instead of a “techy” device, they encourage rather than inhibit human interaction.  But it’s deeper than that.  It goes back to when AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) became big in the early 2000s.  Behind the security of a computer screen, adolescents felt brave enough to speak to people they never would in real life.  Chat rooms and talking to complete strangers became a normal thing.  I found that more people came up to me while I had the glasses on because they were curious but it also was, simply, easier for them to start a conversation with me.  The Spectacles seemed to have been designed with just the right balance of tech vs. human.  They encourage conversation without intimidation and nicely bridge the gap between virtual and reality. 

Breaking through with a personal story:     

My favorite moment of CES was when I entered LG’s experiential tunnel made of 216 LG OLED TVs. Using Dolby ATMOS stereophonic sound technology overlaid with outstanding video imagery, it was a truly immersive experience.  And because the Spectacles recorded for me, I never needed to step outside of the experience or moment.  In fact, I forgot I was even wearing the glasses, completely immersed in the stunning images, colors and sound surrounding me in the tunnel.  I recorded around 2 minutes of Snapchat footage which is approximately twelve 10 second snaps.  I felt the most connected to this moment and wanted to share the exact experience with my followers.     

With the Spectacles on, the person behind the glasses has complete control of the story – making it therefore much more personal.  The story I played back for my audience was captivating because it was as shown through my eyes and delivered in a format that was new and different.  The video I shared of the showroom floor was not wide, sweeping views – but rather a much more intimate, behind-the-scenes view that told of one personal journey through a massive, at times overwhelming, sea of booths.  It allowed me to create and share a much more human take on CES in the midst of a world of tech. 

After the conference, I watched the footage back as we were creating our :60 recap video.  It was fascinating to be able to re-watch my EXACT journey over again.  Every conversation I had, every place my eyes wandered to – all captured in :10 video snippets.  Watching my editor stream the clips together was like watching her journey through my stream of consciousness.  An intimate, personal journey that was ready to be shared with the world.

Conclusion:

CES 2017 is being called the conference that catapulted a more connected world.  While this is certainly true in terms of connected devices – everything from TVs, to cars, to refrigerators – there was arguably a disconnect between actual human beings.  The larger the conferences are, and the greater the virtual and AI technology, the harder it is to maintain human connectivity.  I watched as most conference goers opted to put on a headset and disappear into a virtual world or have a conversation with Alexa (Amazon’s Voice Service), rather than explore human operated booths or have face to face interactions.   

The beauty of the Snapchat Spectacles was that it grounded me in the moment and allowed me to share a more human take on CES – one that was personal, intimate and real. Simplicity at its very best.

See the whole video experience:

Katelyn Lurvey, Innovation Strategist at The BAM Connection

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