The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a must-see, obsessively covered event for tech insiders.
Tens of thousands descend on CES every year for a glimpse of What's Next. Chris Reif, a digital creative director at Philadelphia-based ad agency Neiman, is there now.
He's in charge of helping companies stay on the cutting edge.
"Brands can actually start using this stuff now," Reif said of his CES 2013 experience so far. "Yes, there's definitely some forward-leaning stuff that won't be mainstream for a while, but there's also some things now where it's like, 'Hey, if you can partner with someone in a smart way, it could actually be a really great opportunity for your brand to get in that conversation.'"
Reif says Neiman's internal R&D unit, called Labs, is where new tech is tooled around with first.
"Labs is really a playground for us," said Reif. "We want to be a year or two ahead of where mainstream is so that when [clients] come to us and say, 'OK, I'm ready to do something with x network or with x technology,' we've already been playing in that space and have some experience with it."
Last year the team built something called Tweet to Shoot, which let Twitter users virtually fire a Nerf gun at the mention of a specific hashtag.
Why, you ask?
Because bridging the digital and physical worlds could have money-making implications for clients down the road.
This year, Reif says his CES experience will likely push Labs toward a project using gesture control.
"So think Minority Report-ish type stuff," said Reif. "I really think there's something there."
It's science fiction-y now, but in a few years, Reif says, maybe you'll be interacting with retail displays by waving your arms.
Here are three other takeaways Reif says he'll be leaving CES 2013 with:
1. TV is changing
"The TV experience is obviously changing. The general vibe here is that 3D television has kind of gone the way of the dodo bird and people are going to see that phased out a bit."
Absorbing the hype? 4K TV.
"While it's really cool to see and amazing and beautiful, we are far, far away from that actually being in anyone's living room. Nothing can serve up the content fast enough — because broadband's just not there yet."
2. Cars are the new open-source platform
"GM and Ford released an SDK, or software development kit, for developers, which I think is really interesting. Most of the tech stuff we've seen in the auto sector hasn't been so amazing. I think it's automakers trying to cram something in there that a lot of people don't want."
"Opening it up and allowing people to develop apps for location and audio and phone calls and things like that, I think you're going to a see a big jump in the quality of those products as those apps start rolling in from the outside open source community."
3. All these mobile devices need power
"As we get more and more mobile, everyone everywhere is looking for power."
"Throughout CES there were charging stations all over the place that were sponsored and you could sit down and have a drink and charge your phone."
"Big guys, like Duracell and Energizer, are playing catch-up. But there are a lot of startups doing really interesting things with power. Wireless power is really starting to get mainstream. You don't have to worry about dongles or connecting anything."
"There's also the idea of a charged device charging an uncharged device. And that stuff is happening."