8 Technologies and Platforms Every Forward-Thinking Marketer Needs to Know

From AR to Amazon, IBM Watson to self-driving cars

Check out our full coverage.

From IBM’s souped-up supercomputer Watson to Google’s tricked-out, self-driving cars, marketers are navigating a new wave of tech services and platforms beyond the walls of traditional advertising.

Augmented reality, chatbots and artificial intelligence are all poised to become a bigger focus for marketers in the coming years, and advertisers are already starting to experiment with tech coming out from Facebook, Google and Apple. Meanwhile, other companies like Amazon and Waymo are just starting to give marketers a peek at their most forward-looking innovations.

Needless to say, there’s a lot for marketers to dig through when figuring out what tech is worth investing in and which trends are simply fads. As part of Adweek’s monthlong Next Tech series exploring marketing tech, we’ve highlighted eight emerging technologies and what marketers need to know about them today and in the future.
L.J.

Microsoft’s HoloLens

While brands have poured millions into VR platforms like Facebook’s Oculus and Samsung-owned Gear, the marketing potential in Microsoft’s mixed-reality device HoloLens remains relatively untapped. But the wearable could be huge as a visual search engine that layers holograms over the real world.

Among HoloLens’ early brand adopters are Lowe’s and Cirque du Soleil, both of which have created applications that visualize how big items like stage sets and refrigerators fit into physical spaces. Meanwhile, the PGA Tour designed a HoloLens experience that lets fans interact with golf courses as part of a three-year deal with Microsoft.

Microsoft is working hard to get its technology into the hands of more developers and agencies. Last month, the tech giant expanded the number of creative and digital agencies involved in its HoloLens Agency Readiness Partner Program, which helps clients make apps, from 10 to 30.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is also developing a proprietary artificial intelligence chip for HoloLens 2.0 that uses visual search to instantly detect the items that users are looking at while wearing the goggles. “AR really isn’t AR without artificial intelligence,” notes James McQuivey, vp and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Because AR needs to be able to interact with your physical world in an intelligent and natural way, the more intelligence it can apply, the more compelling it will be—not just to recognize objects, places and people but to understand your relationship to those things and begin to connect you to those things in better, more intuitive ways.” — L.J.

Alphabet’s Waymo

At Google, self-driving cars are already taking a real-world spin. After reorganizing its autonomous car division Waymo into an independent company under parent organization Alphabet last year, Waymo’s fleet of more than 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Lexus SUVs equipped with self-driving sensors and software is now cruising around Phoenix and being tested in Kirkland, Wash., Mountain View, Calif., and Austin, Texas.

Unlike competitors including Nvidia, Intel and Uber, analysts say Waymo has the full package of assets and technology that it needs to dominate the self-driving space. Alphabet’s company has also reportedly been in talks with Honda about installing self-driving systems into its cars.

After a public lawsuit claiming that Uber stole its trade secrets unfolded earlier this year, Waymo also inked an intriguing partnership with ride-sharing app Lyft. The two companies are working together on pilot projects and product development while Waymo gets access to data about Lyft’s millions of riders. Still, Waymo will need to work with even more partners to make self-driving cars mainstream.

“Waymo is the clear leader in the software that will control the autonomous vehicle,” says Michael Ramsey, research director at Gartner. “Their issue is going to be getting people to work with them. Google clearly sees huge promise in the technology and it has the chance to be world changing, but at some point they will need a partner in automotive and will need to be willing to collaborate and not just dictate terms.” — L.J.

IBM Watson

Of all the companies using artificial intelligence today across industries like marketing, healthcare and more, it’s IBM Watson that has made the biggest effort to help consumers understand its many potential uses.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 7, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.