There is no doubt that AI, AR, and VR dominated CES 2023. From cooking utensils to gaming enhancements to wellbeing-oriented devices and apps, it was all around. Yet it seemed that companies were still playing it safe by introducing incremental innovations. And while there were some revolutionary concepts like a flying car from Aska, most products and capabilities presented were refinements to concepts that are already on the market. It also seemed that the conference was more about immersion than material products—many innovations went beyond “touch and feel” and needed to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
Advanced technologies, like AI, give unprecedented tools for content creation, provide access to well-being management at one’s fingertips, as well as opportunities to enhance human experiences in the metaverse. At the same time, they come with a high burden of trust for users. From allowing personal information to be collected and trusting computers while driving, to allowing technology to write the first sentences of your creative piece, we are a long way from being comfortable with digital presence in our everyday lives.
This year, for the first time, CES had a central theme, “Human Security for All.” But instead of focusing on potential security risks, the theme was about collaboration between players and technology as an avenue for tools that would solve threats to humanity such as food shortage, supply-chain issues, and health hazards.
And, what about the metaverse? While it was on full display, the prevailing attitude was that it is not a replacement for real life. Rather, it works as an environment where one can have an experience that is otherwise not possible in the physical world. For example, Sony and Manchester City showcased a proof of concept that enables one to experience an event from a variety of viewpoints. I experienced the concept first-hand, viewing a prior game from the soccer players’ perspective—something I would not have been able to do even if I had attended the game in person. The Sony-Manchester City partnership was first announced in November 2021 and promises an exciting experience for all soccer fans. Just imagine being able to watch and rewatch World Cup games this way!
Given my background and focus at Escalent, I am keyed into all things technology. Here are a handful of the other trends I found most interesting:
Technology brings many tools to the content creation industry, from de-aging, to dubbing, to script writing powered by ChatGPT. There is also a possibility of synthetic actors. Yet, the question remains: Will these tools ever replace human talents? The dominant opinion right now is that these are enhancements, not replacements. There is still a human element of creativity and personalization that AI cannot replicate.
In addition, there are many issues to be solved. For example, AI needs a pool of knowledge to produce outputs, and that pool of knowledge comes from existing work that is likely licensed. How does the industry ensure proper compensation when AI utilizes elements of human work (be it music or story elements) that someone else had rights to before? This question remains to be answered.
Outside of being hypnotized by Sam Asghari, I was completely blown away by how technology can now allow viewers to influence the final outcome of the content they are watching.
Advertainment was another CES buzzword. With technology advancements, there are new opportunities for advertising and entertainment industries to join forces and create commercials that engage without interrupting. In an environment where consumers do not want to pay for streaming but are not receptive to traditional advertisements that interrupt their content, advertainment might just become the new secret sauce. It might also come in the form of company-sponsored content (like Mr. Right) or product placement. Think of the number of times you’ve watched a movie or a series and wondered where you could buy that outfit or a hot tech gadget. How cool would it be to click and buy it in the moment? It just might be a win-win for all.
It may be a lingering effect of the pandemic but focus on mental health and wellbeing was big at CES this year. My favorite was a meditation app from Tripp that merges beautiful visuals, calming sounds, and gaming elements (think Candy Crush Saga) to calm your mind in a VR experience. It’s funded from the Amazon Alexa app and is available on a variety of devices, including Meta Quest headset and PlayStation VR.
In addition to VR meditation, I saw headsets that diagnose your mental wellbeing, a smart toilet that collects your urine sample to provide an on-the-spot diagnosis, AI-based sleep tracking technology from ASLEEP, and so much more. Focus on health and wellbeing is here to stay, and tech is all over it!
As we get more mobile, screens are dominating in cars. My Escalent colleagues in our Automotive & Mobility practice noted a focus on immersive, entertaining in-car experiences. Of course, entertainment needs content, and providing content on the go needs connectivity. And while the debate on whether the car will soon become a computer on wheels is still ongoing, technology continues to play an important role in the automotive space. How about a karaoke screen in the car? I bet James Corden would get on board with that!
Beyond cars, screens also dominated the wellness space. Would you like to get fit in front of the screen? Watch out stand-desk concept—the new kid on the block is a desk-bike combination that charges your device. Unveiled by Acer, the eKinekt BD3 bike desk uses kinetic energy generated from pedaling to charge your devices. Count me in for this new style of working from home.
While we’re talking about screens, opportunities for extending them into real life while gaming were all around us. A company called unveiled their AI gaming sync box kit that synchronizes smart lights to bring in-game moments into your surroundings.
Want to extend/clone yourself into the digital world? Ploonet, a subsidiary of the Korean-based AI firm Saltlux, enables you to create a clone for the digital world, so this “metahuman” can attend your business meeting in your place.
And, of course, everyone knows Roblox and Walmart recently jumped on this popularity train by launching Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play. Now you can go to Walmart “isles” in the digital world to collect merchandise and unlock exclusive interactive content. Walmart Land promises to extend the best fashion, style, beauty, and entertainment from the physical into the digital world.
Amazon is partnering with Panasonic Automotive to provide an update to Panasonic’s in-vehicle entertainment system that gives drivers access to Alexa or Siri features in Apple CarPlay. Customers are no longer limited to one device and that’s ok. Communicate however you are most comfortable!
And speaking of being comfortable, let’s face the fact that our kids will enjoy talking to famous Disney characters way more than Siri or Alexa. A new partnership between Amazon and Disney lets you chat with famous Disney characters through Echo at-home devices or while at Disney resort hotels. Whose kid doesn’t want to talk to Mickey Mouse or play trivia games with Olaf?
From at-home diagnostics and testing for viruses and growing your own food to managing your mental health, many companies are helping consumers become self-sufficient through technology.
LG presented its indoor gardening appliance, providing access to all the goodness of greens year-round. The unit, called Tiiun (which means “to sprout” in Korean), features two shelves to grow your own greens in an urban environment.
And how many of us are tired of throwing away fruits and vegetables that go bad? Green Life Tech’s product, FreshDefendTM, is a smart countertop system that promises to preserve the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables five-fold. Imagine how much that would cut down on waste, not to mention the money you’d save.
Although there were lots of cool innovations to explore, many larger companies were not willing to take huge leaps on technologies – they would rather showcase something closer to reality/ home/what already exists. This is not surprising, given losses in investments on metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Given political and economic uncertainties that caused a less-than-desired end to 2022, the tech industry is likely to lean to the “safer” side in 2023. Doing more with less and in the most efficient way will likely be the trend moving forward, for both consumers and businesses.
While revolutionary concepts, like metaverse, will not go away completely, the focus is likely to shift towards products and concepts that empower consumers, save them money, give them control, simplify their everyday tasks, and contribute to sustainable ways of life. As businesses are faced with limited budgets, efficient spending will become more important than ever. This means strategic investments will be top of mind with less focus on “build it and they will come.”
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