The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) provides an opportunity for retailers to showcase their upcoming products – both those that are ready for release and some still at concept stage. It doesn’t come as a surprise that robots were in the spotlight again, giving us a glimpse of what’s coming next in AI. Whilst some of these innovations were well received, for example, the owl imitation companion Luka that helps children to read, and Honda’s 3E-B18 upright chair robot which aims to assist elderly mobility, others failed to deliver at crucial moments. Smart home robots such as LG’s CLOi ignored simple commands and the Aeolus home robot froze mid-demo. Perhaps consumer expectations of more humanised bots are still some way off being fulfilled, while the simpler, more functional inventions are quickly gathering pace. We had a look at the rest of this year’s offerings and identified three emerging trends from CES 2018 to watch.
1. Seamless tech
Foresight Factory research shows the need for less interruptive interactions with technology: 46% of global consumers agree that they receive too many unwanted notifications from their mobile phone. Many brands responded to this need for Casual Connectivity at CES 2018. For example, via IFTTT Applets, TiVo’s home entertainment systems can connect to other smart devices in the home, and create an integrated system where the TV pauses if someone rings the doorbell, or automatically turns on the news in the morning in synchrony with the alarm.
LG aims to make the home truly connected with its new SmartThinQ technology. Appliances – from washing machines to air purifiers – with the tech can work with either Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Home Assistant. If appliances from different manufacturers can work together, the purchase of smart home technology is more feasible and the home itself is easier to manage. Meanwhile Samsung launched its next generation Family Hub – a fridge designed to be more intuitive and intelligent thanks to the addition of Bixby voice control. Samsung hopes that this function will provide seamless communication and become the “home’s digital command centre”. Not only will the fridge be able to sync its contents with meal preparation, it will also be a centre of information to help family organisation and connection.
Appliances with voice control features offer consumers a more intuitive way to use products, boosting the feeling of seamless connectivity. Combined with the interoperability of multi-brand devices, this smooth collaboration enables tech to blend into the home environment, becoming increasingly accepted. This also serves to allay the fears of those who feel Murdered by Modernity: the less intrusive technology is, the less consumers feel the pressure of always-on culture. This in turn could reduce concern over technology’s effect on health and social interactions.
2. Better battery life
Increasing reliance on digital devices is driving demand for better battery life that enables 24/7 access. Furthermore, the rise of electric cars has necessitated improvement in both battery life and charging capabilities, as EVs attempt to rival traditional petrol and diesel cars for mileage capability.
London based startup Quick Energy showcased its Quick-e Charge concept at CES, a single-use battery pack that can be purchased from convenience stores or coffee shops, offering charging on-demand. Once the device has charged, the battery packs can be posted free of charge back to the company, to be recycled for use again.
Meanwhile tech companies demonstrated attempts to make device batteries themselves last longer: Huawei’s new smartphone, the Mate 10 Pro, has a battery component to outlast rivals; Lenovo is leveraging a power-efficient Qualcomm processing chip (from a mobile phone) in its Miix 630 tablet to give 20 hours of use on a single charge; and Sigma Design is developing a chip for IoT devices that could last up to 10 years without recharging.
Circumnavigating batteries altogether, gaming specialist Razer has developed a wireless mouse that is powered by a magnetic field generated by the mouse pad, and Ossia demoed its Cota Forever Battery which is able to receive wireless power for eternal charging. Translating this technology across to electric vehicles could make charging quicker and easier, as shown by BMW’s wireless charging pad on display at CES, which could be positioned in a garage or on the street for more convenient charging.
These innovations are facilitating a Life on Demand mindset, with seamless charging also appealing to consumers whose need for immediacy dominates. Here, efficiency and speed are key. Being untethered from charging points is an appealing prospect – truly wireless charging which tops up devices and cars on-the-go enables freedom and eradicates the fear of being stranded without battery.
3. The home workout upgrade
A notable theme from CES this year that intersects across the health, fitness, leisure and home industries is the emergence of more immersive, at-home workout opportunities. These allow consumers to participate in upgraded fitness classes from their own homes.
One example came from Peloton, creator of the high-tech exercise bike that allows users to stream spin classes, which returned this year with a connected treadmill. Similarly to the spin bike, users can stream from a selection of 7000 instructor-guided running classes directly to the screen attached to the Peloton Tread. It also has lower storage space for weights, allowing for cross training as well as running-based workouts.
Black Box VR showcased an immersive virtual reality fitness experience, which could perhaps be considered a more high-tech version of the Wii Fit. Using motion tracking bands and HTC Vive headsets, users physically fight off mythical creatures with different moves and sequences. The company plans to open a boutique gym in San Francisco for visitors to experience the workouts, and to eventually allow players from all over the world to compete against each other live – but with VR tech getting better and more accessible, we expect such offerings to reach the home relatively soon too.
Innovations like these tap into The Everyday Athlete mindset, offering access to athlete-level equipment and training at home, and at minimal cost. The popularity of Zombies, Run! is testament to the appeal of gamified tools which outsource motivation to third parties – a theme explored in Challenge Accepted! Black Box’s offering chimes with this, while incorporating VR technology which will amp up the fitness experience and ensure users are fully engaged with their workout. This emerging innovation is also a serious potential threat to gyms and fitness classes, as the home becomes a hub to genuinely rival similar OOH activities.
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