Ah, CES – the only Consumer Electronics Show that matters (i.e., the most media coverage). Our visit to CES began with a simple inquisitive question of not only what’s the next thing that will be integrated into our daily usage patterns.
Spurred by our burning curiosity, we resolved to arrive at CES on the closing weekend, only to be met with lights and displays of such ferocity that it begs us to ask – has CES gotten brighter every subsequent year?
But before we get to what technologies we saw that can add value to our clients, especially in the space, here are some of the major themes that popped up within the first day:
- Drones are going to be everywhere – including becoming our Uber rides. There was an entire hall dedicated to automated and controlled drones, with all shapes and sizes, and aiming to augment or replace various functions from transportation to industry. What we noticed was different from last year however, is that most of the drones are no longer platforms for video cameras, but rather they were outfitted with advanced stabilization, flight, and visual scanning sensors – capable of shape detection – producing, in this case, advanced obstacle avoidance and surveillance capabilities.
- Wearables are no longer cool – what’s cool is infusing toys and every day devices with baseline artificial intelligence to add functionality to our everyday tools, and to spark creativity within us to code and create something that interacts with the physical world – an example below, where we see assembled building block toys that are programmable to move, or respond to commands.
- Automation – from home to toys and transportation, automation will become more mainstream, as we see the evolution of artificial intelligence permeate our existence’s every nook, cranny, and interaction – another example which is below, where we see a table full of automated lights, scents, and other household accessories, all controlled by a single iPad like device.
- Displays, such as the ones below integrated into a wall cabinet or masquerading as a piece of art, will become interactive, and near invisible, as we begin melding technology into the background, and no longer view it for technology’s sake, but as a necessity.
- Augmented reality and virtual reality is a definite value add to businesses as well as our everyday lives – and expect the technology to be in use soon. A brief glance within the AR halls revealed to us that by merging advanced scanning and detection techniques with other data sources (e.g., infrastructure, identity, or location) creates a world that’s more involved, informative, but ultimately distracting. Virtual reality evolved into more than an independent device that displays movies, or plays games, but utilizes the existing technology within our phones to create worlds around us – instantaneously, and cheaply. We found ourselves mesmerized by the integration of technology within the retail space, as we believe the next major computing platform would influence consumer retail the most and flip the paradigm on how we browse, shop, and purchase, as we move seamlessly from digital to physical.
Key Takeaway – VR/AR Is the Next Big Thing
In a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that “every 10 or 15 years there is a new, major, platform that comes along,” and predicted that “virtual reality is going to be that with augmented reality.” Just three months later virtual and augmented reality stole the show at CES 2016, and again in 2017, with dozens of booths displaying headsets and accessories and several creators launching or previewing new immersive experiences.
Although VR today has mostly only gained traction in fully immersive gaming and entertainment (due to the heavy equipment cost and footprint), industry leaders are beginning to develop new strategies to merge virtual reality with the physical world, broadening its use case and offering a multifaceted value proposition to consumers. With this, it’s likely that AR will indeed be the true revolution Zuckerberg referred to.
Pokémon Go, the 2016 summer smash hit that spawned over 500 million downloads in a matter of weeks, serves as early validation of consumer interest and the mass appeal of AR inspired interactions. Per Ericsson’s consumer lab, 38% of internet users would be interested in utilizing AR glasses to pick-up items related to gaming with another 41% already interested in AR glasses transforming their environment to include birds, flowers, or even mimic a favorite movie. This is great news for the AR investors that poured over 2.5 billion into the industry in 2016 with the hope that by 2020 the market will be worth 150 billion.
Moving Beyond Entertainment
With consumer interest in these types of interactions on the rise, online marketplaces can now offer customers something they presently lack – the ability to experience a product before purchasing. The idea of trying on an outfit or standing in a hotel room before running your credit card is becoming less and less farfetched with this new technology. Gap has taken steps to make this experience a reality with its app, Dressing Room, and companies like YouVisit providing virtual experiences to Starwood Hotels, real estate groups, restaurants, and city tourism groups. It’s only a matter of time before major online retailers like Amazon, Macy’s and QVC follow suit.
This does not, however, represent the death of brick and mortar; here too, there is opportunity to enhance the physical shopping experience by adding an additional layer of information to the experience. With AR a consumer can have reviews, product information and sale prices immediately available upon picking up an item. Consumers are already doing this by cross-referencing Google and Amazon on their smart phone, but AR offers a greater sense of control to retail brands in this environment.
What does that mean for you? In a world where everyday devices are becoming more capable, interconnected, and available – where the world around you can be virtualized, or augmented to your desire? What does that mean for a business? We think it means preparing to embrace it, for the eventual future is one where we do not serve information on screens and allow consumers to choose when and where they’d like to consume it. We should prepare for a world where information is constantly available, pushed to the consumer, but also useful – where knowledge and desire intersect and pass through virtual and physical hands. Where we can play and experience the object of our desire, and have it delivered via a drone in the next 40 minutes.