Imagination's global innovations director Stephen Van Elst discusses the need for human interaction post-pandemic
For the next few months, at least, millions of people are going to be stuck at home. Whether they are with kids, friends, partners or alone, their needs and priorities have changed. Imagination's global innovations director, Stephen Van Elst asks how can we apply the principles of generosity, imagination and interactivity to our creative thinking for everyone confined to home.
The need for human interaction
There will be a growing demand for people, families and communities wanting to convert their homes and immediate safe surroundings into places of engaging and connected experiences. The standard staple of Netflix and Xbox is not going to be enough to stop the kids from climbing the walls.
In the new world of remote working, social distancing and digital-first, creating an emotional connection is even more important. This is a universal human truth that goes beyond audience types, tribes or profiling. The further apart we are, the closer we need to feel. How can we find ways to create human connections between people, in spite of physical distance? The House Party App has exploded for just this reason. More than a formal video conferencing tool, it's a place to hang out with friends and engage in a way which makes us feel connected again.
Augmenting our personal spaces for a virus-resistant experience
A new paradigm of self-service experience, activated by augmenting household functionality will begin to emerge. There is so much technology already embedded in our own homes. Smart TVs, voice AI, biometric wearables, Smart home WiFi objects, mobile devices. VR headsets. Our homes are literally a tech lab of interactive interfaces and gadgets just waiting to be combined in amazing new formats. Innovative brands will find ways to successfully infuse storytelling and connect these ready-made interfaces to surprise and delight stay at home audiences with new and exciting products.
Now is the time to apply creative thinking to the automotive experience
As we ease out of complete lockdown, automotive will become an unexpectedly fertile territory, with plenty of creative innovation to explore as families desperately try to escape being cooped up in the home. With so many public gatherings being shut down, the vehicle offers the opportunity to reimagine how we can safely come together with others in shared experiences.
Like the home, vehicles offer a safe personal space protecting you and social cohorts from the outside world. With most newer vehicles coming standard with loads of technology, it means (like in the home) we can augment its core transport functionality to create safe mobile experience portals.
Expect a new breed of live entertainment ideas to be reformatted and delivered by drive-in, drive-through and drive-to experiences.
Virtual experiences must have true interactions
Another unique condition that has emerged from this situation is there are now many thousands of skilled professionals staying at home or worse without current employment. They can no longer ply their craft or sell their services in a traditional face-face setting. At the same time, we all are going to soon realise isolation means not only being stuck in the home but also being cut off from services and experiences these professionals deliver to us. We are already seeing some early activity in bricks and mortar businesses rush to convert to virtual services using the video conferencing tools currently available to them. However, there is a much larger opportunity to build a new service model where real skilled people deliver their offering remotely, and brands using innovative technology can create market-leading enhancements.
We have all seen the rise of tech like VR and mixed reality headsets into the workplace of B2B, enterprise and training. Well now with every consumer being remote, these experiences and technologies will be accelerated into the hands of consumers not just for entertainment purposes, but to deliver a remote service. It won't take long before your child has suffered a horrendous haircut by your own hands before you will be looking for a service to connect you to a live barber to walk you through it.
There are literally thousands of revenue opportunities to activate live professional services enhanced with technology to make these times more fulfilling and even more personal than ever before. People have new interests to explore and new skills to learn. Never has there been a greater need to connect with real people and share in experience. The potential is to revolutionise the service model similar to how UberEats, Just Eat and GrubHub connected restaurants with new customers.
Virtual experiences still need to be real
In the coming days, weeks and months we will begin to see a new generation of virtual experiences that blend storytelling and human interactivity. These experiences will be created using a hybrid of established and more recent technology. The exciting part is that they will be designed to solve real-world business challenges. But also, to reconnect us with each other.
Brands just need to find the right creative and innovation partners to help them reach these experience starved audiences.