Ever since the pandemic began, companies have been searching for ways to make virtual events as memorable and productive as they are “IRL” (online parlance for “in real life”). This week at CES, companies are pulling out all the stops to do just that.
P&G will be among them. For the third year in a row, the company’s LifeLab will have a dramatic presence at the tech world’s signature show, and, of course, this year that presence will be virtual. P&G has developed an interactive, immersive platform that aims to mimic the in-person experience, complete with avatars that interact with the exhibits and one another. Attendees will design an avatar and then enter the LifeLab via an elevator that showcases P&G’s products and developments over the years. From the main floor, attendees’ avatars can “walk” (or run, or even breakdance) to different areas, including exhibits, programming stages, networking areas, and booths for connecting directly with P&G people. Their avatars can also engage with other attendees, to encourage one of the most important benefits of in-person events: networking. The platform is optimized for desktop computers, but is accessible via mobile devices as well.
“In our first year, people said, ‘Why is P&G here, is there connected toilet paper?’,” joked Phil Duncan, P&G global design officer, who has led the efforts behind LifeLab each year at CES. “But it’s about how we’ve really pushed innovation.”
Creating P&G’s CES presence this year involved a diverse group of talents and teams helmed by Duncan. Ioana Matei, an immersive technologies leader at P&G who is a VR expert and film producer, merged elements of VR and film making to design the attendee experience. “When you’re creating two-dimensional film, you’re directing the viewer to what you want them to see,” she says. “But with three-dimensional, you have to look at it from their view, what they’re going to see.”
Duncan says the platform, created in part from gaming technologies, was built for CES but with future uses in mind. “We clearly see that virtual and immersive technologies are going to be the way we connect with customers and influencers going forward,” he says.
Products and themes present at the event will appear as part of broader exhibit spaces or have their own dedicated areas. They include Microban, a cleaning product that debuted in February just as pandemic trends made it an overnight sensation; Oral-B IO, a smart toothbrush; Dawn Powerwash Dish Spray, a product aimed at men; EC30, an environmentally friendly cleaner; and 50L Home Coalition, a partnership focused on reducing home water use from an average of 500 liters per day to 50 liters. These products and areas will be accessible by “walking” through the LifeLab and through portals that “teleport” an attendee from one space to another.
Programming will include live discussions and demonstrations as well as recorded talks, from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Among others, sessions include “The Importance of Innovation,” from P&G CEO David Taylor; “The Future of Virtual Design,” from Phil Duncan; “Constructive Disruption,” from chief brand officer Marc Pritchard; and “Innovation Driving Sustainability,” from Virginie Helias, chief sustainability officer.