In our continuing series of interviews with radio executives who attended CES, we spoke to Colorado Broadcasters Association President Justin Sasso. Sasso was also part of the Jacobs Media tour of CES. Let’s find out what Sasso thought about the 2022 show.
Radio Ink: Why did you go to CES?
Sasso: My first CES was in 2020, just before the world shutdown. I hadn’t been to Las Vegas since the 2020 CES, but once I heard the Jacobs Tour was going to occur, I decided it would be good to participate and see what new advancements in technology had occurred in the last two years.
Radio Ink: Did you see anything that popped out at you that radio MUST know about?Sasso: Deepbrain AI was eerily fantastic. This company featured interactive AI, on a screen, that was almost impossible to distinguish from a real human being. Conceptually, the technology could be used in multiple service industries. Imagine approaching the front desk of a hotel or hotel chain you frequently visit, but instead of a human behind the check-in desk, there’s a large monitor. On that monitor is the hotel’s check-in agent and using facial recognition, that AI check-in agent would recognize you, confirm your hotel room and could be programmed to know your room preferences, favorite places to dine and attractions that match your interests in the immediate area.
The demonstration at the booth was extremely real and once this AI starts using your name and discussing the things you enjoy, it’s going to be difficult to separate reality from the AI. My brain started churning, how long until this AI appears on screens placed around our home? Will your future Alexa appear on a screen in each room to interact with you, much like a personal assistant.
In relation to our industry, what are the opportunities for broadcasters to bring their talent into a listener’s home in a similar capacity? Contest participation, talk show interaction or just to deliver a rundown of local events happening in that listeners area when they shout out “I’m bored!”? The options are up to our imaginations, and budgets, but imagine having AI staff that never has a bad day and interacts with every listener on a personal level.
Radio Ink: Where does radio stand, compared to SiriusXM, when it comes to auto manufacturers?
Sasso: I’m not sure SiriusXM is radio’s biggest concern. Afterall, SiriusXM has been trying to unseat radio for two decades and AM/FM still remains dominant. Every new audio or video entertainment technology is looking to unseat the established medium, but ultimately the pie just gets divided further. When it comes to auto manufacturers, prime placement in the dashboard will be left up to the consumer. No two iPhone home screens are alike. Even if we have the exact same apps, mine are going to be sorted differently than yours. That’s how the dash is developing. If broadcasters of yesteryear thought presets were an evil invention, wait until drivers can determine where the AM/FM radio app sits on their dashboard.
Once again, it comes down to content and if radio continues to give future car owners a reason to be on their dash, we’ll have our place. I don’t think audio is our biggest threat in the future vehicle. Autonomous vehicles are the real threat. Once the bugs in that technology are worked out and self-driving cars are verified safer than human drivers, the humans (now former drivers) will begin consuming visual content (i.e., YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Reddit, etc.) and in-car entertainment will experience a new level of fractioning.
Radio Ink: As you flew back home, what were your thoughts on the entire experience?Sasso: I was happy I had chosen to attend the conference and sheepishly admit that the lighter attendance and fewer vendors made the experience much more enjoyable. In 2020, it took 30 minutes for an Uber to arrive and another 45 minutes to go 3 miles from hotel to the convention center. At the convention center it was a sea of people and a battle just to get near a popular exhibit booth. This year, Uber rides were immediately available, long trips took 15 minutes and the convention center was navigable. There was time and room to take in some of the lesser-known vendors and I left with the feeling that I had taken in a good portion of the show and that made for a much better experience.
Radio Ink: How was the Jacobs tour and what did you learn?
Sasso: This was my second Jacobs tour and once again it was well curated for the broadcasters. With only a couple of days to peruse the seemingly endless miles of convention floor, somehow Fred and Paul always manage to scale down the tour to the most pertinent exhibits. As a visual learner, I enjoy the firsthand experience of XPERI’s technology. The biggest learning moment for me was the “skateboard” platform of the electric car.
Basically, future electric vehicles will be built on one of a few, very similar, four-wheeled platforms. These platforms will integrate the drive system for the wheels and the batteries. Everything built on top of that “skateboard” will come from the manufacturers we know today (i.e., Ford, Toyota, Mercedes, etc.). Eventually this could include brands we never dreamed would be in the automotive business. Imagine a car designed and built by Starbucks, with your customized barista on board and ready to prepare your favorite caffeinated beverage at the push of a button.
Radio Ink: Why should more radio executives attend?
Sasso: It’s dangerous for any industry to put its head in the sand. It’s deadly if that industry was king at some point in history. Radio isn’t going to be replaced, but it is going to evolve, and we need imaginative leaders to lead that evolution. As broadcast leaders we should be looking for the next opportunity to participate and offer our listeners something advanced and exciting. By attending CES you’re tickling the imagination center of your brain, and this opens your eyes and mind to new ideas and ways of doing things.
You can reach Justin Sasso at: [email protected]