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Exhibit booths at CES are normally designed to impress you with the gadgetry of all kinds. But this year Panasonic put a ton of effort into its digital booth with the aim of getting a message across.
The digital booth highlights Panasonic’s Green Impact mission with Olympic athletes like figure skater Nathan Chen. In a preview of the booth, Panasonic’s marketers Mike Coyle and Mike King, as well as Endava’s Jean Louis Rivard, took me on a virtual tour of the booth ahead of CES 2023.
Instead of pushing high-tech gear that consumes a ton of energy, the company has turned to a mission of promoting sustainability and addressing the climate crisis.
Last year, Panasonic announced the Green Impact initiative, which focused on reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its own value chain. The company committed to achieving net zero CO2 emissions from its own operations by 2030.
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But carbon neutrality is just the beginning. In fact, by 2050, Panasonic’s goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 300 million tons, or about 1% of current total global emissions.
Putting a lot of effort into a virtual booth is an idea born of the pandemic, and Panasonic wants to make an impression on the large number of people who don’t go to the show — even though the in-person event will draw 100,000 people and Panasonic has a prime spot in the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Panasonic wants to use the spotlight it gets at CES to shine a light on innovations that tackle the world’s most pressing environmental problems in hopes of inspiring others to join.
Panasonic conducted research recently into Gen Z and millennials and their passion for sustainability. Results supported the topic being a huge priority for these future generations – and Panasonic wants to tap into that.
The physical booth at CES
Panasonic’s founders were advocates of the democratization of technology and being a purpose-driven brand. To live up to that legacy, the company is taking action to counteract the effects of climate change. As part of its efforts, Panasonic built three sustainable smart towns or cities on the sites of old plasma TV factories where it can showcase renewable energy technologies like solar panels and battery-charging stations.
“The idea was to take that notion and make our CES experience, both physical in the booth and in the digital experience, give people a sense that they’re visiting a Panasonic smart town, a Green Impact town,” said King, head of creative services group at Panasonic North America, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We try to be very minimalistic in the term in use of materials and used recycled materials to repurpose things like fabrics on the walls and our projection screens that were made from recycled plastics.”
He added, “We’re trying to walk the walk. Obviously, there’s going to be a carbon footprint to participating in the big trade show, but we’re trying to be mindful of that. Which is kind of why the booth is set up the way it is and it’s a lot more minimalistic than it has been in the past.”
The booth has a smart city area where the company shows off energy tech, mobility, and similar products. It has energy-efficient home products on display, and those dedicated to well-being. The booth has natural wood like bamboo and there’s no carpeting. Certainly, there are some contradictions there as the screens are as high as 18 feet tall.
“We’ll be telling our Panasonic Green Impact story on screens throughout the booth, as well as our mobility story, our electric vehicle battery story,” King said.
The digital booth experience
Michael Coyle, head of the web group at Panasonic North America, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the team wanted to do something engaging for those who can’t attend CES.
“In years past, we’ve done a good job having a live video with the tech talks and having cameras showing the stage,” he said. “But this year, I think we’ve really, really achieved it. With the digital experience, we can actually go beyond the borders of just the physical booth.”
The same zones show up in the digital booth. And the mission is clear at the outset that Panasonic will plant a tree on your behalf.
Working with Endava, Panasonic created an immersive and interactive experience highlighting the Green Impact campaign. If visitors go through the experience, Panasonic will “reward” them by pledging to plant a tree on their behalf, Coyle said.
The digital booth mirrors some of the green-oriented products on display at the company’s physical booth. But the virtual tour focuses on sustainability technology in four experiential zones. It looks like a video game, or maybe the Second Life virtual world. And it highlights renewable energy, mobility and connected solutions, consumer lifestyle, and wellness tech.
It looks pretty good. As you go through it, you collect badges as part of the quest. The experience will debut in multiple languages and feature other athletes like Naomi Osaka and Michael Phelps.
Jean Louis Rivard, the lead ventures strategist at software design firm Endava, said in an interview that if you click on a badge, you start a quest that is designed to pull you through the whole experience. It’s kind of like a game.
“We loosely pay homage to the layout of the physical booth,” Rivard said. “It’s divided into those same four zones of park and town, mobility and home. We have large screens that mirror what’s on the show floor We have a tree sculpture in the middle. That’s also on the show floor. It’s a visual marker to draw you in. But we go beyond the limitations of that physical booth in some fun and interesting ways.”
It’s an immersive 3D experience that can run on a variety of devices without much latency. You make your way through each zone and see some light markers dubbed Bifrost, after the Thor movies. You see the grass turn brown and weather effects show the stakes of climate change.
“We have a personal call to action and the need for collective action,” Rivard said.
In the town, you see Panasonic’s solar cell technology and how it can be used on semi-translucent surfaces like windows. A lot of the communication is visual, as the team didn’t want to overwhelm people with reading text. The mobility section highlights electric vehicles and battery chargers. In the home area, you see the ways your house can take in energy via solar and store it with batteries. It also shows how homes can save energy with architectural lighting and pump systems.
Asked if it was akin to a metaverse experience, Rivard said the team thought of it more as a 3D space with a narrative, as opposed to a larger kind of metaverse.
“It’s a richer, fuller experience than you often see in those types of things,” he said. “We went with a 3D immersive experience that you can deliver that to any device. You don’t need to have a VR headset to experience this.”
Panasonic still has its store on its website, but this experience is a deeper dive into storytelling.
“We really keep you focused on the high-level sustainability message,” Coyle said.
The show floor
So what’s the company introducing at CES?
Panasonic Automotive Systems has created a high-performance computing system for software-defined vehicles with a focus on performance and safety. That means it’s creating a supercomputing system architecture for a vehicle to boost computing power in the car and to fully exploit a car’s sensors.
In 2021, software-defined vehicles amounted to 84 million cars on U.S. roads alone and by 2035, it is anticipated that number will rise to 305 million.
Panasonic Automotive also joined with Amazon to introduce a ubiquitous voice assistant integration for smart vehicles. It works with both Amazon and Apple voice assistants and ties them into the infotainment centers of cars.
And Panasonic Automotive Systems also introduced an audio system for electric vehicles with high-quality sound and low-power listening experiences. The audio system is lighter and consumes less energy, consistent with the booth’s message.
The company also launched the Nanoe X portable air purifier in North America to improve the environment inside cars and create a better passenger experience. The air purifier not only reduces
odors, but it helps inhibit bacteria, mold, and allergens, both airborne and on surfaces.
The idea is to create better comfort and environment quality in places where people spend so much of their time.
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