Mobile World Congress, the tech conference that attracted more than 70,000 attendees to Barcelona this week, wraps up today. And we're sharing five technologies that grabbed our attention, with an eye on what they could mean for the future of marketing.
3-D printable selfies
This one jumps off the page. The joint project by Volumental (based in Switzerland) and Dacuda (Sweden) is in beta and entails mobile tech that can be used by consumers to snap three-dimensional selfies. The companies envision their technology being employed not just for social media's answer to the self portrait but also for food pics. What's more, you can print these things. So, if you've always wanted a miniature model of your noggin to pass around, well, Volumental and Dacuda are about to make that dream come true. (This development might breathe new comedic life into Mark McKinney's 1990s "Crushing Your Head" bit from Kids in the Hall, by the way.)
All jokes aside, the companies drew considerable buzz at MWC, even though their app hasn't hit digital stores yet. And it's not just because the spector of tiny heads is kind of odd. There are business applications afoot—but they will likely exist more on the digital side of things than the physical.
For instance, how much more interesting would a restaurant's Yelp page be with 3-D photography of the cuisine? And Anna Malkan, marketing rep for Volumental, told Adweek that a pair of European shoe retailers were getting set to incorporate the technology on their websites this summer, allowing viewers to create 3-D visualizations of what sneakers, boots or sandals would look like on their feet.
Below Malkan briefly describes one of the product's functionalities for consumers, while giving you a glimpse of what a 3-D printable selfie looks like:
A new way to open your phone: stare at it
ZTE, a Chinese tech company, raised eyebrows by showing off its new Grand S3 that's set to roll out globally later this year. Here's what specifically got people's attention: The phone comes juiced with a retina-scanning system that allows users to open it by simply staring at it.
The technology, dubbed Eyeprint ID, is currently only for unlocking the phone—but it's pretty clear that the security system will be utilized for marketing applications. Could there eventually be an e-commerce play? Can you imagine using the tech to order food on Seamless or GrubHub? Talk about eyes too big for the stomach.
HTC’s virtual reality hardware
There were probably more folks in business attire donning virtual reality (VR) headsets in this Spanish city than necessary, but hey, it's 2015. Most of us know about Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Sony's Project Morpheus by now, but it was interesting to see HTC jump into the game by debuting Vive.
It touts 70 built-in lasers and sensors that are supposed to help you navigate through virtual experiences. Such technology is called positional tracking, which has earned Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey's latest iteration—the DK2—significant praise in recent months. So, HTC appears to be on the right track.
The headset will go on sale in time for holiday shopping, though HTC didn't reveal a price point. Marketers will likely get their hands on test kits before then, which could attract more brands to the VR realm as they realize competition for Oculus means the cost of the devices (typically in the hundreds of dollars) will likely come down. That would usher the tech into more consumers' homes, where advertisers will definitely want to reach them.
The marketers of startup Pebble had an amazing Mobile World Congress. During the show, they saw their smartwatch project break the Kickstarter record for crowdsourced funding, with more than $16 million from 64,000 backers. Conference goers were abuzz about the wearable, thanks to its chic, stainless-steel design and 10-day battery life.
At MWC, the California-based company also introduced a Smart Straps platform, which lets developers create straps for its watch called Pebble Time Steel. The device will go on sale in May for $245. And after Shazam's revelation that its ad-supported app will soon be available on Apple Watch, marketers should look out for startups like Pebble, because soon, brands need to figure out how to pitch products and services on people's wrists.
The original Pebble Watch hit the market in 2012 and has reportedly sold 1 million units. Though the company has supposedly received offers from tech giants before, it will be interesting to see if it sells to Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. (That would probably upset its Kickstarter supporters, though.)
Samsung Pay takes on Apple
A day before Mobile World Congress kicked off Monday, Samsung made waves by announcing the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. But marketers especially took note of its new payment solution that will go head-to-head with Apple Pay.
The Korean tech giant's app has an intriguing calling card: It will work for retailers that employ magnetic-strip cards instead of near-field-communication technology. In theory, that will make the payment app attractive to merchants, and Samsung said consumers in the United States and South Korea will begin seeing the option in a few months.