You can always tell when you run into someone who just got back from CES: the gravelly voice, the fatigued body language, the sudden aversion to light; it’s quite apparent the toll that the world’s premier Consumer Electronics Show puts on its participants. Add that the conference takes place immediately after the holidays—seemingly at the exact moment when you’ve finally settled into a relaxed state of being—and the shock to the system is somewhere between surreal and humorous.
The 2017 version was no different—in fact, it may have been more of a shock than normal, since it atypically went through the entire weekend and, as has been the trend, is yet again bigger and broader. You want automotive? They’ve got miles of it. Health? Wellness? Hospitality? Gaming? Media? Endless amounts. Artificial Intelligence? Machine Learning? Virtual Reality? Robots? Drones? Check, check and double check.
As usual, it’s more about navigating through the noise more than anything else. What’s new, what’s interesting? For one thing, it appears we’ve identified the killer app for virtual reality: trade show demos. There were plenty of fun VR experiences on display; but at this point, VR still seems to be finding its way. Which is not to say there wasn’t a lot of cool stuff on display by the likes of Valve, who was seemingly represented on every PC-based VR system at CES; but it’s still unclear where it’s all going.
If you’re not careful, you can more than ever get stuck in the world of solutions looking for a problem. At one point, I was drawn to a throng of people, stacked 50 deep, with their iPhones out video recording… a laundry folding robot. Handy? Sure, I guess; but what it did more than anything else was remind me that I need to get my kids more plugged into laundry duty.
Amazon clearly had a great CES, and it’s apparent companies everywhere are taking a bet that Alexa and integration with AWS will be the platform that wins in the end. And whether or not Alexa was the voice control engine, automation was everywhere, with a sea of autonomous vehicle demos, and robots doing everything from greeting you at your door, to the aforementioned folding of your underwear.
But like many commonly used terms in technology, automation has many definitions, and the value it delivers varies wildly. This is where I must give a plug for my friends at Carnival and the immersive cruise experience they unveiled at CES. These folks truly understand what automation means, and how it can drive user-centered design and solutions.
Carnival’s OCEAN Medallion is a personal concierge service that is much more than just that. Yes, it’s a system for gathering and using data, and for delivering personalised experiences; but what is truly revolutionary, is that it allows for many basic (but important) things to be automated, which improves the lives of both passengers and cruise ship crew alike. The passenger benefits from having so many of their needs automatically and seamlessly met (fetch this, find that, schedule this); which allows the crew to do the most important part of their job: focus on serving the customer and ensure they have an amazing experience.
This is the future – technology disappearing into the background, and being ubiquitous, like electricity. I’ve said this for a while about the future of IoT; but frankly, it’s true about all tech.
Whether it’s Under Armour’s focus on sleep and recovery, or the million different robots that are happy to greet customers at the front of a store, it’s about the magic just happening, and not relying on you to check your wearable device, log in, open an app, or fish your phone out of pocket.
So you can focus on what you want to do. Like get in shape, enjoy your vacation, or create your own perfect microbrew in your kitchen.