CES 2021: Samsung, Google & Lucasfilm on Business Shifts

By Kaitlin Milliken |  January 15, 2021

While the Samsung Group’s 287,000 employees had already been distributed across the globe, the shift to remote meant turning some employees’ living rooms into at-home consumer electronics labs.

“They have installed 10 TVs in their living room with multiple phones. The internet infrastructure [WiFi network and internet security] at home had to be stable,” says Sang Kim, Senior Vice President and Head of Product Management at Samsung Electronics. “So I think there was a lot of quickly ramping up for people to equip their house into an office.”

Kim and other technology executives discussed remote work at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, as part of a panel called “Tech Heroes of the Pandemic.” Three other key points from the discussion follow.

Empowering Hybrid Work

While not all employees can remain remote, many companies shifted to hybrid work, looking for ways to reduce the number of employees gathered in the office. That includes Lucasfilm and its  special effects department, Industrial Light & Magic. According to Senior Vice President and General Manager Janet Lewin, the team at ILM has delivered on 10 projects during the pandemic. That includes “The Mandalorian,” on the streaming service Disney+, in which 4,000 shots with visual effects were completed by artists working from home. 

“We were accustomed to thinking that the only way to work was to be in-person collaborating with our teams, solving problems together,” Lewin said. “We can now give our artists more work-life balance and flexibility, and reduce pollution with traveling and reduce our footprint at our studios. … I don’t think we’ll ever go back to a 100 percent brick-and-mortar paradigm.”

An Explosion of At-Home Entertainment 

According to Google Marketing Vice President Marvin Chow, 2020 led to a dramatic increase in streaming content and other at-home entertainment. “We saw that 63 percent of the TVs are now [capable of] streaming,” Chow said.  “We’re seeing it in search. … Searches for family movies are now up over 100 percent globally. Searches for things like simulation games are up 300 percent. Globally, things to do with friends online have [grown by] 300 percent.”

Another win for Google?  Augmented reality animals — from hippos, to cats, to dinosaurs. Users can search for certain animals on Google’s mobile app that will then appear in their living rooms. The AR animals appear to scale, giving users a sense of what animals would look like and their sizes in the real world. According to Chow, there has been a 50 percent increase in people using this feature.

Creating Diverse and Equitable Teams 

“This year has brought an awareness about the lack of diversity in visual effects, and that we have a responsibility to actually intentionally look for and develop that talent,” said Janet Lewin of ILM. To help build a pipeline for diverse talent, Lewin says the company has created an apprenticeship program. 

Having a remote workforce allows the program to reach a wider group of candidates, especially those from varied income levels. “You don’t have to hire someone and then move them to a really expensive city, as a junior artist to get working in visual effects,” Lewin explains. 

Lewin also notes that remote work can be an equalizer for current employees as well. “I think that the remote workflow is a democratizer,” she says. “Even on Zoom conferences, everybody has the same size square, so everybody has the same level of participation.”