Slideshow

In Pictures: 8 Creative Tech Innovations to Attract Customers

Get inspired for 2013 by checking out technologies that make products and services more appealing to today's demanding customers.

  • From Harry Potter to cupcakes to basketball, check out these eight technologies that make products and services more appealing to today's demanding customers.

  • Make Your Product New, Even If It's Old At the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, visitors are getting a better view of history when they go to see the Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt exhibit. Using 3D design software called Freeform, museum workers are able to more accurately reconstruct mummies' faces to show what they would have looked like during their lifetime. For example, a forensic artist used the software to recreate the face of a mummy believed to be a three-year-old boy. Forensic artists use a stylus to create the computer model, so they don't have to physically handle the ancient artifact.

  • Make Sure Customers Can Connect 24/7 Be prepared with the right infrastructure to help customers connect via social media. The London Olympics this past summer faced a huge change since the last Olympic games in Beijing because of the rise of social media, Internet usage and mobile devices. BT, the telecom provider for the London games, built from scratch a single data network and host services like telephony and cybersecurity in the cloud. For fans and workers at the Olympics, BT hooked up a total of 80,000 connections, 16,500 phone lines and 14,000 cable TV outlets at 94 locations to ensure every Olympic event could be performed and watched uninterrupted.

  • Bring Your Product to Life Customers today want to do more than buy things--they want an experience. After seven books and eight movies of Harry Potter, Universal Studios created the 20-acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park with a marquee ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It's a rollercoaster with seats mounted on massive robotic arms that take passengers through the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where holograms of Harry and headmaster Dumbledore appear, and then through action sequences such as the Whomping Willow tree and a quidditch game.

  • Let Them Buy With 24/7 Convenience ATMs were built to dispense cash when bank branches were closed. Sprinkles Cupcakes bakery in Los Angeles wanted to offer that type of on-demand service for its products. Customers don't have to wait until the bakery is open, they can walk up to the cupcake ATM and use a touch screen to select a freshly baked cupcake and pay via credit card. A camera mounted on a robotic arm shows the cupcake's trip through the machine until it's presented to the customer through the ATM window. Sprinkles staff can monitor the supply of about 600 fresh cupcakes using a real-time inventory system and see which flavors are in stock and which need to be replenished so they can keep up with the 24/7 demand.

  • Give Them VIP Treatment Customers want to feel like VIPs when they are about to spend money with your company. At the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, pit supervisors can see a feed of data from customers who are part of the hotel's loyalty program via touchscreen PCs at the gaming tables. The pit supervisors get to know these customers by seeing how many games they've played and how much money they've spent in order to make better and more accurate gaming recommendations to them and, in turn, entice them to keep coming back.

  • Let Them Use your Product Any Way They Want You know how important it is to keep up with the new episodes and storylines of your favorite TV shows. Viacom is delivering shows to viewers on smartphones, computers and tablets 24 hours a day so you never miss that latest episode. The company upgraded 135 domestic media networks to a centralized distribution system. So whether it's Netflix, Hulu or a cable box, there's one automated process and no problems getting your favorite show to boot on your favorite device.

  • Offer a New Perspective Sophisticated basketball fans today want more than just the basic stats. So NBA teams are using SportVU webcams to track each player on the court by jersey number and color to collect detailed stats. Ten NBA teams are using the data to build more in-depth player assessments and collect data points that were never available before. The company is sending these new statistics to broadcasters, websites and app vendors, therefore giving fans (and maybe one day, fantasy basketball players) another way to analyze the game.

  • Give Them Data They've Never Had Before After a workout, do you really know what you've accomplished? Students at Northeastern University developed a sensor-equipped athletic shirt that records data about your exercise habits. Called Squid because its sensors look like tentacles, the shirt wirelessly transmits information from your muscles to an Android app and website, which users can log into to track their own progress. The sensors capture data like heart rate and number of reps, and can provide instant feedback by vibrating when an exercise is done wrong.

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