Based on the enthusiastic comments of the participants, industry representatives and an impressive contingent of press people in attendance, the DI Symposium 2014, held on June 24 at the posh Apella at the Alexandria Center on the East Side of Manhattan, was a rousing success.
This unique event, organized under the auspices of Digital Imaging Reporter (DIR), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and PMDA, is really the only place where members of the imaging industry gather together to hear thoughtful presentations by genuine experts. The symposium covered emerging developments in the imaging field, new business models that effectively address and embrace the latest trends, and an overview of rapidly changing technological and marketing environments.
Clearly the informal discussions that take place over a gourmet buffet breakfast and lunch, and in between the presentations, are a vital part of what makes this event so significant. Leading imaging companies that help make the DI Symposium possible are Gold Sponsors Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Samsung and Sigma, and Silver Sponsors Tiffen, Ricoh, Mobile Photo Connect and Ecce Terram.
The event began promptly at 9:30 a.m. after a scrumptious buffet breakfast, with opening remarks by DIR’s editor in chief, Jerry Grossman. This was followed by a panel discussion on “Developing, Marketing and Selling Successful Photo/Video Apps” with principals of four leading companies in the field. Florian Meissner, CEO of EyeEm held forth on the need for indexing the billions of photos taken annually on the basis of content instead of consigning them to oblivion, and he touted the company’s free app for Android and iPhones. “The secret is building community. We won’t touch your images without your consent, and we will help you to make money with them if possible,” he said.
The next speaker up was Luis Sanz, cofounder of Olapic, a company devoted to connecting posted photos to product purchases and to specific brands and resellers. “If a customer is wearing a specific brand of shoes and he/she posts a picture of himself wearing them, posting this kind of content can increase the profitability of the item from 5%–7% according to our research, because it is perceived as authentic,” he noted. He went on to say, “There’s no substitute for a clear message from real people, and some brands are moving toward an increased use of end user images. We curate these images automatically using algorithms and also by employing trained humans. We always ask permission to use such images, and 80% of the people say yes. They complement rather than substitute for professionally shot ad images.”
Kris Ramanathan, CEO of Netomat, Inc., described his firm as a tech-forward mobile app company based in New York City and the creator of Spotliter. “We started with the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, live streaming video content on mobile formats,” he explained. “Spotliter launched in December, starting out with video and than moving into photo capture capability, the reverse of the usual pattern. We start with what the user is creating rather than corporate on down, and we’re able to do things like freeze half the screen and take a picture on the other side, and can also use both front- and rear-facing cameras. Our aim is to democratize content and the creative process, and we offer photo effects apps as well as photo-sharing apps. We know that people no longer have patience for things that are complicated and time-consuming, so we’re into simplicity, powerful editing capabilities and instant gratification in video and photo. The trend is to move beyond apps into a personal browser model, to edit and share content, and to monetize it wherever possible.”
Hans Hartman, president of Suite 48 Analytics, one of the leading firms that analyzes and generates hard data on multimedia marketing research, actively participated in the freewheeling back-and-forth discussions. He highlighted the huge untapped market and profit potential of physical photo printout options. He cited his landmark study, revealing that 55% of North American photo app users have never ordered any type of photo output product (including mugs, calendars and photo books) online, and that only 5% of the 500 or so top-ranking apps in Apple and Google app stores offer any type of photo product creation or ordering functionality.
The first panel discussion was followed by a remarkably brilliant and free-ranging discussion of the possibilities, assets, liabilities and future of Google Glass by Marc Levoy of Stanford University, one of its developers. A true “rocket scientist,” some of his technical points edged beyond the knowledge base of even this technically savvy audience. He was extremely entertaining and unflinchingly honest in pointing out the limitations and possibilities of the ingenious and controversial product being developed and refined by his ex-employer.
After a networking break there was a fascinating panel discussion on the future of 3D printing and its implications for the imaging industry. It was moderated by Fujifilm’s Joellyn Gray, who also chairs CEA’s Digital Imaging board. Gray noted that the first patents on 3D equipment expired five years ago and consumer desktop apps were already widely available. The panelists included Shawn DuBravac and Walter Alcorn, respectively chief economist and vice president of Environmental Affairs at CEA, a leading proponent of 3D printing solutions; Hugh Evans, vice president of 3D Systems; and Enrique Muyshondt, president of desktopFab, Inc.
Among the many points they covered: 3D units in schools will increase from 34k units in 2013 to 60k units in 2014; home units in the $500 range will be available in the near future; 3D apps are in the offing, permitting “easy ideation”; and that convergence will likely take place on a “discontinuous adaption” curve. The panel discussed the three types of innovators in the field—designers, architecture/fashion people and engineers—and the wide range of materials used to create 3D objects from downloadable plans. These include powders made from wood pulp, metal, ceramics and bio material that can build objects layer by layer at a variety of speeds and resolutions. Sustainable practices, legal intellectual property issues and cool products ranging from kids’ faces on dolls to custom sports equipment and dental/surgical implants were covered. What will it take for 3D printing to become truly mainstream? Suggestions ranged from simplifying printers and placing them in schools and libraries, to retailers offering 3D printing services and setting up booths and services in their stores—“a cool new thing to bring feet in the door and enhance your bottom line.”
Immediately after, Michael Petricone, senior vice president of Government Affairs for the CEA, gave an inspirational and witty speech about how the CEA fights for legislation favorable to the interests of imaging manufacturers and retailers. It walks the difficult tightrope of addressing such thorny issues as net neutrality while upholding the interests of both consumers and corporations. He concluded with the need for all industry members to join CEA in fighting against overly restrictive or badly conceived legislation that affects their businesses.
As everyone sat at their tables in the conference hall eating lunch, the irrepressible David Pogue, longtime technology columnist for the New York Times, founder of Yahoo! Tech and prominent technology expert, took the stage. He gave an uproariously entertaining and thoughtful presentation twitting the imaging industry for concentrating on megapixels rather than sensor size in combating the dominance of smartphone cameras and the erosion of certain sectors of the digital camera market. His main point that superior image quality correlates more closely with sensor size and his call for a more unified, logical system of denoting sensor sizes were driven home in his typically irreverent fashion. While the audience thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, his underlying points were serious and certainly well taken.
To more concisely summarize the remainder of this amazing event, there were thoughtful presentations followed by a discussion on “The Powerful Influence of Social Media on Photography” by award-winning, straight-talking photographer Tony Gale; Guilio Sciorio, a noted Panasonic Lumix Luminary photographer; and Colby Brown, founder of The Giving Lens.
This was followed by a provocative presentation on “The Colliding Worlds of Social Networking and Mobile” by Greg Sterling, senior analyst of Opus Research. After there was a fascinating presentation on “Digital as a Disruptive Technology,” given by Bob Seidel, vice president of Engineering and Advanced Technology for CBS, who summarized the history and effects of the transition of TV broadcasting to digital through to 8K; and John-Ross Rizzo, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Rizzo is a physician/scientist who has developed a “smart vest” that uses sensor and digital technology that can aid those with impaired vision in becoming more mobile.
The presentations concluded with an incisive and very useful analysis of “How Today’s Consumers Have Evolved, and How Retailers Are Adapting” by three top experts in the field: Mark Leonard, vice president of Operations for the PRO Group; John Boris, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Shutterfly; and the always entertaining Henry Posner, director of Corporate Communications at B&H Photo – Video.
After closing remarks by Jerry Grossman, the gala concluded with a Waterview Networking Reception overlooking a spectacular East River vista; the Digital Imaging Mixer was sponsored by CEA.