The Best of CES Las Vegas 2019 (+ Lesser Awards):
5 Hot Topics in Consumer Electronics
“Why, don’t you look fresh,” a grandmotherly robot in a rocking chair told me, while reminding me to hydrate throughout the day.
The cute, unsettling robot was the beginning of our CES journey and a Google Disney-esque ride through the Google smart home. The doors opened, a story was told and we bought into it. No app downloads, little to no screen time, family bliss.
It wasn’t about the tech, but the output of the tech and the promise of information ready at your fingertips. And this seamless access perfection, promising to improve our lives, represented the entire experience we were about to have.
Here, we’re sharing the Best of CES Las Vegas 2019, as well as the worst, most improved, and totally ignored. Taken as a whole, these less-than-glamorous awards represent 5 important trends in consumer electronics.
Tech Integration into Your Smart Life
As the internet of things grows, device autonomy emerges as a main selling point.
- Need to close your blinds? There’s a device for that (Somfy).
- Need to pre-emptively warm (gross) your toilet seats? There’s a device for that (Kohler).
- Need to fold your clothes? You guessed it, there’s a device for that (Foldimate).
With the size of electronics shrinking each year, it’s becoming easier to seamlessly integrate technology into everyday objects. When done right, the experience is like magic – pure convenience and simplicity.
At least until the power goes out.
Another byproduct of increasingly small tech is the natural evolution towards product consolidation.
As new product combinations materialize, resources and space are freed up around the home. New tech is cleverly disguised (LG’s Rollable OLED TV, Bose’s Audio Sunglasses, Simplehuman’s Sensor Mirror with built-in smart speaker) to offer a less tech-centric home appearance.
The TV no longer has to be the main focal point of your living room. You can disguise it as a family portrait or classic piece of art (Samsung’s Frame TV) or simply roll it away. (This one’s a shoe-in for awards in both the Best of CES and the Best of Home Design categories.)
So many of the latest smart devices follow this trend and simply fade into the background of your personal style.
(From left to right: LG’s Rollable OLED TV, Bose Audio Sunglasses, Simple Human Sensor Mirror)
Artificially Intelligent (AI) Products Abound
When it comes to incorporating AI into products, the future seems bright and full of promise.
However, the reality is that, in many ways, we’re a far cry from the point where AI products become an everyday occurrence.
In the sea of connected devices it not easy to understand how products are talking to each other when they come from different sources.
For example, a smart home demo showcasing all of the latest and greatest connected devices left us feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Our host moved from scene to scene demonstrating the advantages of a smart home set-up. But each separate voice assistant was muted to prevent interference and confusion between the products.
This technology on its own works well, but it is not smart enough to manage multiples of its own selves in a single room.
In similar fashion, our trip in an autonomous car still required a 10 percent human interaction during the driving experience (Aptiv).
While the technology is impressive and the goal quite high-minded, the reality is that applied AI is still in its infancy and learning the complexities of human nature and human-built systems is a daunting task.
Points of Sale Increasingly Interesting and Personal
Cheer up, though! It’s not all doom and gloom. A little “worst” can’t overshadow our Best of CES.
What is new and interesting is the increasing drive to move the point of sale from store to home. A blend of AI and augmented reality (AR) creates a pseudo-salesman capable of identifying your “problem” and recommending a personal, yet productized, solution.
And it’s not just for retail.
Many of these new devices give the user something to track and offer a new way to evaluate and manage the value of a product’s effectiveness over time (Electric Mirror).
A similar trend can be seen in healthcare.
As medicine moves increasingly into patients’ hands, AI will be relied upon to instruct patients in the use of medical devices and to form baseline diagnostics that can give physicians a leg up on care (Butterfly Ultrasound).
(From left to right: HiMirror, Butterfly Network Personal Ultrasound , Mammut)
Using near field communication (NFC) technology, digital information can now be delivered with the tap of a smart device. In a demonstration by NXP solutions in collaboration with Mammut, a user can tap their smartphone on a backpack (with embedded low-cost tags) and get detailed information about the product, purchase an extended warranty, or connect with a social community (Mammut/NXP). Backpack besties!
AR and VR Finding a Home
AR seems to slowly be finding its home. More exhibitors showcased the benefit of AR in instructional and informational applications, leaving gaming to the many vibrant worlds of VR.
Uses for AR ran the gamut, with everything from windshield navigation, make-up trials, automotive repair, and garden planning represented (AR at CES). The approach of guiding users through complex systems or providing them better simulation and testing tools seem to be the most promising applications of augmented reality.
While VR headsets seem to be stagnant, simulators that allow the user’s body to experience what their eyes already do have taken leaps forward.
Teslasuit’s sensory jumpsuit allows gamers to experience haptic and thermal feedback from head to toe.
Icaros’ simulators allow your body movements to synchronize with the game which provides a far more immersive (and active) experience.
Technology with a Purpose
(From left to right: TeslaSuit Sensory Jumpsuit, Philips Moisture Protect Hairdryer – Next Gen , Jarvish XAR Helmet)
Wearables and smart devices are still a thing, and rightfully so. But we wouldn’t consider all of them Best of CES material.
While many wearables and smart devices seem to track data just for the sake of doing so, other devices seem to have finally found a way to solve problems.
At first pass, a smart blow dryer appeared frivolous. But a thermal sensor that can detect and prevent damage to hair from over-drying actually has a place in the world (Philips hair dryer).
Likewise, helmets that enable cyclists and bikers to go hands-free for calls or navigation provide a real benefit (Jarvish).
Gear for extreme sports enthusiasts that alerts contacts in the event of an emergency, or gear that tracks exposure for workers in dangerous conditions, offers useful applications so far beyond the benign number steps we track today.
The days of collecting data just to have it seem to be coming to an end.
But all of these benefits come with the price of obsolescence.
A smart toilet may be a wonderful thing. But our “dumb” toilets won’t need a plumber and an electrician to repair, and they don’t require firmware updates. They also don’t listen to us while we’re singing in the shower, for which the world is definitely better off.
Access, access, access—but where’s consumer privacy?
This year’s CES was all about access. Access to healthcare, mobility, and information. From new examples of how technology can enrich everything from our shopping experiences to how we wake up in the morning, our lifestyle choices are changing and enhancing.
Some for the better. Some, well, it’s yet to be seen.
One important absence from CES, considering all the wearable, connected technology, was a discussion about privacy issues and protecting consumers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the topic was largely ignored in favor of showing off what’s new and shiny.
Except for that lone Apple Ad.
And we’ll leave it at that.
To see our team on the ground floor, searching for those VR zombies, check out our video!