Jackie Chan brings Two Stuffed Panda Mascots to the 89th Academy Awards Red Carpet

Jackie Chan brings Two Stuffed Panda Mascots to the 89th Academy Awards Red Carpet

Jackie CHan PandasRight now as I type this Jackie Chan is trending on Facebook for what, his latest martial arts related films? Nope, he is trending on twitter for the surprising guests he brought to this year’s Oscar Ceremony. Generally Hollywood stars have been noticed for bringing their parents or even their children when the norm is to bring your significant other, but Jackie Chan this year takes the spotlight by accompanying two stuffed pandas on the red carpet. 

This was no random occurrence; he did not cross-examine his teddy bear collection, see the two pandas and then decide to select them, Jackie Chan who plays the voice of the Monkey in the Kung Fu Panda series of movies, adopted two Pandas in 2009 from China's Chengdu Giant Panda Research and Breeding Base, and was then dubbed Chengdu Panda Ambassador.

The two handsomely dressed stuffed Pandas known as Chan La and Chan Zy were made in honour of his adopted pandas. On the Red carpet during an interview Jackie Chan described these pandas as his two baby boys, providing him with a platform to discuss in brief, their backstory of how after an earthquake the pandas he adopted were hurt, and he raised them, and how this led him to become Panda ambassador. You will see one of the pandas is also donning a UNICEF pin badge, due to the fact that in 2004 Chan was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

I just think what a great thing for Jackie Chan to do, in amidst of all the glitz and glamour, to utilise the 89th Academy Awards as the platform to speak about something you care about, and to gain the attention by use of stuffed animals is a stroke of genius, these actions created conversations not only at the award ceremony but all over the world, through social media channels as people showed their appreciation on Twitter and Facebook.

PPWeek PandaBeing in the promotional product industry you can’t just help to think, this is a fantastic way to gain attention through promotional products, not only is Jackie Chan using a product that is used frequently in many different ways for promotional use like a mascot, but it was also wearing a pin badge which is a beacon for charity merchandise across the world.

Like I said it is not a new thing to utilise mascots to spread a message, in fact in 2015 the BPMA (British Promotional Merchandise Association) used a similar Panda mascot to spread the word of Promotional Products week, a week we have in the United Kingdom dedicated to spreading the word of the value a promotional product has when advertising. Here at BTC Group we played on this by showing the mascot in different areas of BTC HQ, “teaching” Promotional Panda all the unique selling points BTC Group has to offer whilst creating a social media story through posting pictures of different stages of Promotional Panda’s learning experience. 

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 4: Wireless Audio

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 4: Wireless Headphones

Old Wireless Headphones

Wireless audio is another technology that isn’t exactly new; in fact I remember when I had my first pair of wireless headphones in the early 1990’s, they were this colossal pair of over the head headphones, that seriously looked like something from a 1980’s science fiction movie. They had big antennas sticking out of each earpiece wirelessly transmitting to a receiver dock which was plugged into the auxiliary port of my hi-fi/television dependant on which device I wanted to listen to. It seemed revolutionary at the time but the sound quality wasn’t great, the range and interference were even worse and don’t get me started on the battery life!

So what is with the resurgence of wireless headphones now? Although I don’t think you can call it the full definitive factor, but Apple’s notion to do away with the 3.5mm jack definitely put some weight behind the need for wireless audio this year. With rumours that other popular smartphone brands will also be ditching the 3.5mm jack, this only adds more fuel to the wireless fire. The reasoning behind the event many people on social media called #jackgate is that the analogue port just took up too much space with it being such old technology; it was time to fill that area with new technology.

Wireless Audio

Whilst talking rumours of other smartphone brands, it is also rumoured that this year we will see the arrival of smartphones with Bluetooth 5.  Bluetooth 5 is a dramatic improvement on current Bluetooth technology; it promises 4 times the range current Bluetooth has and doubles the speed all without increasing power consumption. This would work perfectly in conjunction with the resurgence of Bluetooth headphones; the gripe many users have currently is losing range and the sound cutting out, with this area strengthened and quadrupled in range, means no more sound drop outs due to the device being too far from the headphones.

The current headphone market is pretty extensive, there is a great range with several different price points and many different styles, including a limited range of wireless headsets. In my personal opinion I think suppliers this year will reduce their focus on wired earphones and start limiting these ranges, whilst placing more emphasis in taking the wired headphone styles and incorporating Bluetooth into them. One thing I am excited to see this year is if anyone goes down the same root as apple has and creates minimalistic Bluetooth earphones, that have a dedicated charging box, the reason being is I believe the charging box provides another great opportunity for the product to be further branded!

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 3: Augmented Reality

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 3: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality on Bicycle

As you can see on timeline on our website we first saw augmented reality here at BTC Group in 2013, a company approached us to see how promotional products and clothing could work with augmented reality, and it did work really well, after a few projects, everything went quiet on the AR side and we didn’t really here much about it business wise and in general media trends. I believe a lot of this was purely down to limitation, there were very few applications out there that supported AR and some weren’t very user friendly at all, not only this but finding people to create content for you was like searching for gold dust, was limited and very expensive. Fast-forward a few years and an incredibly popular mobile game is released that incorporates AR as an integral part of the game of catching pocket sized creatures, and suddenly the world see augmented reality in a whole new light. It was this initial nudge in the right direction that was definitely needed for this technology to make it to mainstream, and people are really becoming more and more interested in not only augmented reality in gaming but how AR can benefit daily routine.

Microsoft HololensSo what kind of things can AR help with in the future? One humungous area AR can be beneficial is when buying product, over 180 billion pounds was spent online last year in the UK alone, many of these people not knowing what the clothing product would look like on, or what the kitchen table would look like in their house, pretty much all of this is done using guesswork. This is wear AR comes in through a device like the Microsoft HoloLens users will be able to see what the dress looks like when they are wearing it, or how a table looks in the room you want to put it and, you can also manipulate and rotate virtually without breaking a sweat!

What we will see in the promotional industry is further research and development into AR triggers, at the moment we’re seeing that using certain apps aiming the camera at imagery with triggers hidden inside is the current method to initiate AI, what would be great is for generic apps to just identify any promotional product, and add the AI element to it, for example T-Shirts with hidden slogans, or pet AI animals that are triggered by aiming the camera at promotional stuffed toys. Another great idea I’d love to see developed for the promotional product and giveaway industry is GPS triggered AR, making products at different locations trigger different things, this would add a whole new level to promotional products, making even the most affordable item more dynamic and fun. 

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 2: 360 Video

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 2: 360 Video

360 Video

Now onto this week's thoughts on Virtual Reality, specifically the use of 360 degree video.

If you’ve ready any of my previous blogs regarding VR or have seen my VR Whitepaper, you will already have some knowledge of what 360 video is, but for those who haven’t had the pleasure in doing so yet, a basic description is that it is a video recording where an omnidirectional camera records in every direction at the same time. During playback the viewer is fully immersed in the spot the recording was made, the panoramic feature allows you to scroll around to see the surroundings, or using a VR headset with a gyroscopic sensor the viewer turns their head to look around them, seeing the whole environment exactly as it was recorded.

VR viewers are becoming more and more available, but content is key! Everbody and their grandmother has been on a VR rollercoaster (producing some incredibly funny youtube videos, may I add!) but what we're seeing more and more of is people filming events, shows even football matches in 360 degree video. One thing that helped me pick 360 video for this list was the fact that you were able to view the London 2016/17 New Year’s fireworks in 360 degrees. This wasn’t created and put out there by some start up tech-company; this was broadcasted by the BBC, which only reinforces my views on how big I think this is going to be this year, so look out for more 360 videos coming your way!

Last year in the promotional industry we saw an increased interest in ‘Google cardboard’ style headsets, these theoretically work fantastically in the promotional market because the whole item is printable, thus providing a blank canvas for branding. Whilst saying this, this year we are noticing suppliers seem to be concentrating more on the high end side of VR viewers, finding new and better ways for people to enjoy the experience in a more comfortable manner, rather than it just being a handheld device. Although these are more expensive then the cardboard option it does go to show, in the promotional industry the selection of quality over price definitely has it’s time and place, with this being one of them. 

360 Video is a fantastic concept, now if you combine this with the technology virtual reality brings, alongside the upcoming trend in the next blog, you have life changing tech at the tip of your fingers.

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 1: USB Type C

Technological Trends to Look Out for in 2017 Episode 1: USB Type C

The Running Man

 According to the 1987 movie “The Running Man,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2017 is the year the world goes into economic collapse, even though things aren’t all rosy in the current climate worldwide, they definitely aren’t as bad as this movie predicted! One thing 2017 will definitely be exciting for is seeing what technological trends and consumer markets have to offer us this year! Over the next 5 Episodes I aim to show you what I think will be big this year not only in the world of technology but how this will translate to to the Promotional Product Industry.

Earlier last month, the world’s biggest Consumer electronics and technology exhibitions took place in Las Vegas Nevada, CES 2017. It was so exciting to see the plethora of new technologies hitting the market this year, some of them relevant and ready to hit the market, others wacky futuristic concepts, but all have one thing in common, they are all pushing the technological boundaries showing us what could be the world of tomorrow. And what does consumer electronics and technologies being introduced into society have to do with the promotional product industry? I almost guarantee you if there is a popular product finding its way into the consumer market, it will just as quickly become a popular item in the promotional merchandise market also, nine times out of ten you can see a straight correlation between popular new products to buy and popular new products to brand. Over the next 5 Episodes I aim to show you what I think will be big this year not only in the world of technology but how this will translate to to the Promotional Product Industry.

Type C Cable1)    USB Type C

 I know what you’re thinking, not another type of connector, but bear with me for one moment as theoretically USB Type C has the ability to be THE One and only Connector you’ll need (One Connecter to rule them all!...for now anyway!) The transformed shape is actually not too dissimilar from current USB connectors; it is just slightly thicker and wider than the popular micro-usb. Great news is for those of you, like me, who plug your phone in to charge in the dark, you will be happy to know, like the Apple lightening connecter, Type C can be plugged in front to back or back to front! The unique quality USB type C has is that it supports all different types of connections, from 

charging, to data transfer, audio and even visual! This means that the USB type C can replace not only all of your current USB charging and transfer cables, but it will also replace Aux, HDMI, VGA and DVI cables.

USB Type C Flash DriveUSB chargers can currently only handle 5 volts at 2 amps (generally) whereas to fully power a computer, the source would need to output at least 20 volts at 5 amps.. Coupled with USB 3.1 and type C connectors the power is now scalable up to 100 watts, providing enough power to charge computers, laptops, tablets, phones, cameras, home robots, spaceships ok maybe not a whole spaceship…. Possibly just the LED lighting… Although I joke about spaceships this integration process is not a distant future, flagship mobile devices have already started incorporating USB Type C ports and reaping the benefits of superfast data transfers and charging. Although USB type C and USB 3.1 are different things, you will generally see them combined to create this USB connected powerhouse, which will make smart devices smarter and your personal and portable computers more portable. 

In the next episode we will see the newe developments in virtual reality and what we think 360 video has to offer us this year.

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