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The best thing from this year's CES is a $15 foam cube



I've been a CES tour guide for the last few years, watching time-lapse trends where 3D printing went from corner novelty to a huge exhibit and Smart Cities moved from notion to pervasive presence.

This year's CES was a retread of CES 2017, except that instead of Amazon Alexa integrations as far as the eye could see, this was the year that, in the quip of my friend Lori Luechtefeld of WIT Strategy, "Google basically shrink wrapped the entire city of Las Vegas, including the monorail!" So mine was a souvenir des CESes passées (remembrance of CESes past) experience– more big TVs and connected kitchen appliances and soon-to-be short-lived electric cars.

With one exception.

Smack in the middle of South Hall (around the corner from where Kodak proudly showcased 3D scanning and printing technology that turns you into a shrinky-dink, the same technology that has been available in my local shopping mall for years) stood Merge VR, based in San Antonio and founded by chief executive Franklin Lyons.

Merge used most of its CES display to focus on the dramatic 6DoF Blaster that turns your smart phone into a virtual super soaker, but the thing that made my heart get fluttery is the Merge Cube, a.k.a. "the hologram you hold in your hand."

The Cube looks like the love child of a Rubik's Cube and the tesseract from the first Avenger's movie: it's made of charcoal grey, lightweight foam, and it has intricate faux metal engravings on it. When you look at the Cube through the camera of your smart phone it comes alive. Merge's app superimposes holograms on top of the Cube, and since you can easily twist and turn the Cube in your hand that means you can also manipulate the holograms.

The Cube is completely intuitive and compelling– the opposite of the awkward paddles you have to use in most VR environments.

This might not sound exciting in the abstract (although if you click here you'll get a more savory sense of what I'm talking about), but up close the Cube provoked both the most excited squeals and most fascinated rapid speculation among my tourists.

With the Cube, you can hold a virtual skull or heart, turning them to get different perspectives and zoom in on what you want to see. You can twist engine parts and dental molds around to see how they fit together, and there are virtual games that combine features of Lego and Minecraft.

You can also place a virtual object and use the Cube to walk around it, so a virtual statue could either be in the palm of your hand or on your kitchen table where you can look at it from different angles.

Best of all, it's an open platform. Developers can build new and exciting experiences on top of Merge, and this last feature is what made the Cube my favorite exhibit at this year's CES. The open platform changes the Cube from a toy to a tool, from something that will quickly gather dust in closets to a vibrant ecosystem in the making akin to what Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain calls the "generative internet."

My tourists agreed: a cardiologist and med school professor thought that the virtual heart would be a wonderful anatomy tool for his students; an R&D scientist for a major cola company got a calculating look on his face when he imagined using the Cube to test new packaging virtually; a senior executive for a major Scandinavian auto dealership was excited to imagine her engineers learning about new engines more easily using the Cube.

Merge's product isn't just creative itself: it provokes creativity in others.

The biggest surprise — which I've spoiled in this article's headline — came when I learned the price point: the Cube costs just $15.

The LG tunnel of flexible TV screens is impressive. The Byton electric car prototype is beautiful. Alibaba's "smile to pay" technology is interesting (and a bit creepy).

The Merge Cube is important.

Marketers shouldn't let the Cube's low price point and toy-like form factor blind them to its potential: with even base-hit success the Cube will absorb a lot of attention, and attention is the oxygen that brands need to breathe.

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Capgemini partners with HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series to 'augment' experience through data



The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has secured Capgemini as its global innovation partner, a sponsorship that will see the firm enrich broadcasts with in-depth data from the sport.

The male and female fixtures will be boosted by the tech expertise of Capgemini. It will operate with an emphasis on improving the fan experience.

This will see the group provide data and infographics to boost the tournament experience in stadiums, on television and social. Furthermore, it will produce a web series, fronted by a rugby expert, making use of the rich data on hand to delve into the tactics and performances.

Virginie Regis, vice president for group branding, marketing and digital director at Capgemini said that "spectators want to build a deeper connection with their teams" beyond "just watching a match in the stadium, on television or online".

Capgemini will move to "augment" the viewing experience with data and insights designed to create discourse and engagement around the fixtures.

Regis added: "This will enrich the viewing experience by sharing deeper perspectives on key attributes of the game, including strategy and tactics, as well as player and team performance."

In the back end of the rugby sevens operation, Capgemini will also work to bring its business and technology innovations to the fore to help build upon the competition's efforts. On the experiential side, the company will activate locally to create fan experiences across the globe, with an emphasis on tournament cities.

Paul Hermelin, chairman and chief executive of Capgemini Group, said: “Our sponsorship of the Sevens Series combines perfectly our heritage with our global reach, in an innovative and inclusive way. It is the next chapter in the story of Capgemini’s support for rugby.

"We are looking forward to enabling our clients to discover this new, fast moving format, and I know that many of Capgemini’s 200,000 strong team are excited about supporting and even playing Rugby Sevens in the months to come.”

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Creative Work of the Week: Stockholm pens an open invitation to ‘loves, haters and hesitators’



Another Monday, another Creative Work of the Week, which this time goes to our Scandinavian friends in Stockholm for their work promoting the city as one that’s open to all.

Visit Stockholm teamed up with Visit Sweden for the hero ad, which features a personification of the capital city reading an open letter to the world. In first person, the female voice declares: “I don’t know who you are, where you came from, who you voted for, what your family name implies… you’re welcome anyhow, just as you are.”

The voiceover, which is delivered over footage of both locals and visitors enjoying the city, makes the case for Stockholm's progressive values.

The campaign was created by the Swedish agency Volontaire.

Volontaire: Visit Sweden, Visit Stockholm 'The Open Letter'

Agency: Volontaire
Client: Visit Sweden, Visit Stockholm
Date: January 2018

The city of Stockholm, together with Visit Sweden, has published an open letter inviting lovers, haters and hesitators to come and experience the capital – a city unique in its approach to openness and accessibility.
Stockholm, the Swedish capital situated on 14 small islands, is famous for its closeness to nature, booming tech-scene, gender-fluid fashion, colorful LGBT community and the Nobel prize. The letter, delivered by narration over footage of both locals and vistors enjoying the city, makes the case for Stockholm's progressive values.

Lukas Lima, Art Director, Volontaire.
Elisabet Fischer, Copywriter, Volontaire.
Samuel Skwarski, PR/Creative, Volontaire.
Klaus Hahn, Account Director, Volontaire.
Lina Edenfelt Holst, Producer, Volontaire.

Tags: Sweden, digital, pr, advertising, creative work of the week, Ad of the Week

Video of Welcome to Stockholm – The Open City!

The Open Letter

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Cadbury pop-up to take knick-knacks as cash in reconstruction of latest ad



Cadbury is setting up a pop-up shop to sell its Dairy Milk chocolate – but instead of cash, all that’s required in return is some form of knick-knack or trinket.

The first ‘Glass and a Half’ store opens on Thursday for four days at 57 Greek Street, London, where 10,000 chocolate bars will be up for grabs. 'The Glass and a Half' shop has been designed to mimic the corner store layout featured in the brand's new ad campaign, which sees a young girl visiting a corner shop in need of a bar of Dairy Milk for her mum’s birthday.

With no money to hand she can only offer some small knickknacks as payment which the kindly shopkeeper duly accepts.

The pop-up will also feature Cadbury themed newspapers, household supplies and postcards.

The traveling store will decant for a similar run in Birmingham and Sheffield to give the rest of the country a glimpse of what a bartering based economy would look like.

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