Design Concepts wins GOOD DESIGN Award for its work on Pelvalon's Eclipse System

The “I” in CES

January 25, 2017

Visiting the “world’s largest innovation event” is like drinking from the technology fire hose.

It’s exhilarating, overwhelming and it takes a while to process what you’ve seen. It takes even longer to process what you haven’t seen – the sensors, software and hardware hidden behind beautifully designed surfaces.

We skipped some of the biggest attractions, such as Faraday Future, because they’re getting plenty of attention without our help. We missed some of the coolest surprises, such as the Willow Smart Breast Pump,  among all the commotion. Thankfully, websites such as The Verge, Endgadget and TechCrunch can help you get an in-depth view if you really want a CES immersion.

With that, let’s talk immersion and some other “I” words that seemed to sum up CES 2017:

Immersion: In the worlds of gaming, virtual reality and augmented reality, creating immersive experiences is the ultimate goal. There were headsets, eye controls, foot controls, chairs, gloves and even a sub-woofer watch to help you truly feel your experience down to your marrow.

Invisible: This was the year of Amazon’s Alexa. The voice-activated intelligent assistant was baked into everything. Volkswagen, Hyundai and Ford were promoting Alexa integration. LG put it in a super-fancy, spendy fridge. Speakers, smart watches, you name it … all of them are now dating Alexa.  The Artificial Intelligence (AI) that powers Alexa and a bevy of other “assistants” is developing quickly, but in this space it’s largely being used in service of value propositions that aren’t particularly compelling (i.e., closing your garage door or changing the channel). Is Alexa just a 21st century Clapper?

Intuitive: Things are becoming ever more human-centric in shape, texture and input. Technology no longer can expect users to cater to it. Now users will simply forego an experience that doesn’t cater to them. The days of learning about and configuring one’s computer to play a video game are over — the computer has become a means to an experience (often an inconvenient necessity).

AI and sensor technology promises to create personalized comfort bubbles that move with you throughout the day.

Independent: If you have any doubt that autonomous cars are the future, CES would have convinced you otherwise. Honda was doubling down on the idea that in the future more people will be sharing their rides. The NeuV is the company’s electric ride-sharing concept car that picks up and drops off passengers when its owner isn’t using it. A little extra money for the car’s owner and low environmental impact.

Individual: In what environment do you sleep best? What music calms you down after a hectic day? Where’s your favorite coffee shop and how do you like your latte? Wearables, pillows, mattresses, thermostats, light bulbs, speakers, cars … they all want to know. Rapidly improving AI and sensor technology promises to create personalized comfort bubbles that move with you throughout the day. 

Intrinsic: Much as the camera has now become part of our phone, technologies are melding into each other to become increasingly invisible. Televisions got wallpaper-thin. Sony’s Acoustic Surface technology turns the entire OLED panel into a giant speaker. Or you could just project your images on to the walls or a table using an unobtrusive short-throw projector so you can watch the morning news on the table while eating your bowl of cereal. Smoke detectors, cameras, monitors and Bluetooth speakers are being integrated into LED lighting. We especially liked the Bright Tunes string lights that can play music off your smart phone. Now you can REALLY piss off the neighbors. Sweet!

Inexpensive: Obviously, that’s not true of most of the new, cool stuff at CES. A lot of products were conceptual and months to years away from the market. But the revolutionary stuff of recent CES past was there, such as curved screen TVs retailing for less than $1,000. VR and AR technologies are rapidly coming down in price as headsets go mainstream. Same thing for drones, which come in all price ranges and offer more features at lower price points.

Inescapable: From your toothbrush to your pillow, your car to your coffee mug, you can expect a future with sensors and AI that all feed into or use big data to better serve your needs (i.e., sell you stuff). Nirvana or nightmare? You be the judge.

Click here to download our full 2017 CES Report. 

Thanks to Matt Bettman and Ken Soliva for their help with this article.