person wearing VR headset

The Future of Lifestyle: Trends in Consumer Product Development

Successful, long term consumer product development depends on knowing the difference between fads and trends. Here are some hot takes from this year’s CES®.

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Sam Moon and Nick Fuselier

March 30 th 2022 | 10 minute read

Your organization’s product roadmap should never be set in stone. After all, your audience’s expectations are always evolving, and your consumer-oriented products need to keep up. As you scan the horizon for new opportunities, remember: trends come and go. Just because something is popular right now doesn’t mean it will drive your business forward long term. You need to be discerning in order to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.

We work with clients to navigate the ebb and flow of trends over time. We inform our recommendations through conversations with clients, user research, online research, previous project experience, and even by attending conferences such as the Consumer Technology Association’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). We attended this year’s show in Las Vegas to gain insight into the up-and-coming products and technologies that could impact your future product development plans.

Quick confession: we weren’t blown away by any show-stopping new products this year. But when we reflected on some of the innovations we saw combined with some of the other trend research we’ve conducted, we identified several consumer technologies that have the potential to impact innovation across a variety of industries.

We’ll walk you through some of the products and technologies that are catching our attention lately and share the related growth opportunities we see. Along the way, we’ll help you steer clear of the reactionary trends that could detract from your organization’s true potential.

The Transformation of Medical Devices and Wellness Products through Wireless Technologies

We are particularly excited about three individual technologies that — when put together — could transform medical devices and other wellness products.

First, the problem: there are countless remote health trackers on the market today that are intended to electronically transmit patient health data to healthcare practitioners. However, none are capable of seamless, maintenance-free monitoring.

For one thing, they all rely on cellular service to transmit data. That means they also drain your battery. If a patient doesn’t have access to existing wi-fi or cellular networks and power sources, their monitor can’t work as intended. That means their doctor can’t keep track of important vital signs and health markers that allow them to diagnose a problem before it presents as an emergency.

Now, the possible solution. Three technologies that could combine to enable global connectivity:

  1. An e-SIM chip that automatically negotiates with local cellular carriers to create credentials for devices, enabling consistent connection.
  2. A multi-band, non-resonant antenna booster that adjusts the frequencies of these connections to be compatible with the devices.
  3. Microcontrollers that can stay connected to towers with a small amount of power, reducing the device’s power consumption.

These technologies have the potential to allow medical professionals to collect data more effectively, chart patient outcomes, and provide continuous care even if the patient isn’t able to physically come to the office for a checkup.

Electric Vehicles Address Urban Problems

Electric vehicles (EVs) still have a way to go before they’re totally commonplace, but this space has grown increasingly competitive over the last few years. As a result, the race is on for new innovations. For instance, one car featured rooftop solar panels to provide a trickle charge effect throughout the day.

What stood out the most was that many EV manufacturers are looking for ways to use these vehicles to meet consumer demands while decreasing emissions in the process. One concept featured a ride-sharing platform designed to be used similarly to a Bird scooter or a NYC Citi Bike. Rent it to explore the city and return it to its charging station when you’re done. (Yes, ZipCar already offers this service, but an EV provides a more eco-friendly alternative.) This concept had a sister vehicle geared towards grocery, DoorDash, and Amazon deliveries.

Another manufacturer is designing their first vehicle to enable a new type of mobile blockchain. The concept is that each vehicle will serve as an individual node. The overall chain growing as adoption increases over time, presumably in the interest of progressing autonomous driving. The vehicle also incorporates a powerful supercomputer – which coupled with an extensive portfolio of proprietary software and technologies – allows passengers to maximize their time in transit.

Our takeaway here? Increased competition will continue to fuel electric vehicle innovation. The most successful companies in this arena will design with purpose in mind. To succeed in this still-niche space, identify use cases that appeal to the sustainability-minded consumer.

Virtual Reality Offers Benefits for Some Use Cases — With Significant Drawbacks

Making products useful and preserving design integrity are back in fashion. A few years ago, it seemed like every new product featured internet capability. But we were pleasantly surprised to see that product developers’ fascination with the Internet of Things (IoT) is diminishing. And thank goodness — because really, does anyone need a smart toaster?


On the other hand, virtual reality, augmented reality, and the Metaverse are taking over where IoT left off. But a quick word of caution: don’t develop VR and AR products just for the sake of it. It only makes sense to venture into this space if VR/AR will support your organization’s business objectives for your suite of products.

Ideal Use Cases for VR/AR

If you’re a video game company, emerging VR technology offers some exciting ways to delight and engage your audience. We observed on accessory where players strapped themselves into a motorized chair. The chair simulated all the motion necessary to make users feel like they were inside the game. But unlike other VR experiences — where players can’t stay still and end up injuring themselves — this chair put the user’s safety first.

VR/AR technology is also beneficial for industrial companies and medical device companies who need to train their employees on using complex equipment. For example, we saw a pair of AR glasses created for industrial sites, refineries, and manufacturers. Supervisors could tune into the view of their employees to evaluate situations and problems in real time. This is great technology for troubleshooting issues and enhancing performance.

When VR and the Metaverse Simply Don’t Make Sense

Specific use cases notwithstanding, the risks of VR and the metaverse may outweigh many of the dubious benefits the technology claims to offer. VR does have the potential to hurt users, especially those already vulnerable and at-risk. Consider the harm that could befall a minor who enters a virtual space with predators posing as their friends. You don’t want your product to be part of that.

Beyond the potential for harm, we struggle to see the value-add of a Metaverse experience for the standard consumer.  How much can an avatar and a virtual restaurant setting really make us feel like we’re out to dinner on a first date? If we need to span the miles, couldn’t we achieve the same (or even more realistic) result through a Zoom conversation? And do we really need to replicate the experience of shopping at Walmart in VR?

In so many ways, VR feels like a lame substitute for real life — not an enhancement of it. As The Verge so aptly puts it, “Life in VR doesn’t feel like the future anymore. It feels like the past we’ve given up on.”

The “Pelotonization” of Fitness Continues to Fall Flat

Peloton’s meteoric rise during the early days of the pandemic spurred many fitness companies to create their own machines and attempt to corner their part of the connected fitness market. We saw the results of this “us too!” mentality on full display at CES. Whether intentional or not, many products claimed to be the Peloton of this or that.

One rower we tried out offered a nice physical experience, but the onscreen UX was nearly identical to Peloton’s. Another company attempted the holy grail of creating a full ecosystem of connected fitness products. However, there was no hint of design language across the equipment. Their portfolio not only lacked cohesion – a few of the products were direct copies of competitive devices.

The lesson here is simple: there is only so much space in each industry for real innovation. By the time you catch up with the company who’s leading the way, you might find the market has shifted altogether. In Peloton’s case, the fad is already waning and the company has gotten flak for everything from safety issues to insensitive treatment of laid off employees. And if their stock price is plummeting, imagine what their wannabe competitors are experiencing.

You can’t afford to hinder your product’s development and end up worse off than when you started. So if you can’t do it better, don’t do it at all. Jumping on a bandwagon after another company has already made their mark will leave you constantly trailing behind. You won’t reap the ROI you’re after, and you’ll likely pay a hefty opportunity cost. Why? If you’re busy copying your competitor, you’ll never launch a product that truly sets you apart.

Keep Your Product Roadmap in Mind When Evaluating the Latest Trends

It’s fun to explore the latest design trends and look for ways to incorporate them into your product development plans. At the end of the day, it’s only worth pursuing the trends and technologies that have the potential to drive your business forward.

Your objective should always be to design products that simultaneously serve your audience and differentiate your business from the competition. Don’t get distracted by all the possibilities out there. Instead, stay focused on the trends that will add value to your organization’s long-term product plans.