In the midst of the fascinating and interesting tech being displayed on the show floor, it is easy to miss the interesting alliances being made by some of the largest, powerful and most familiar names in tech.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Smart Home Internet of Things (IoT) category, where companies like Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon are collaborating and competing at the same time, often in the same product ecosystems. A new Whirlpool washing machine, for example, is connected to Google’s Nest platform, and uses Amazon Dash to automatically re-order detergent. Each one of those companies is looking to secure an advantageous position in the emerging Smart Home IoT market.
Necessary collaboration between rivals is nothing new (Samsung is a long time supplier of chipsets for the iPhone), but the stakes are higher than ever before, as industry players jockey for position to establish relevance in the emerging multi-billion dollar industries of IoT, VR and Smart/Autonomous vehicles.
The Rise of IoP (Internet of Pets)
In a world where everyone and everything is connected, it is only natural to get our furry companions connected as well. There were several pet tech companies that focused on the Internet of Pets – products designed to help pets and their owners stay connected.
PetBot allows owners to observe and interact with their pets via their smartphones. Owners can call their pets, play music for them, automatically record videos, take pictures of them and even dispense treats.
A self-described ‘connected accessory’, WonderWoof’s BowTie is an activity tracking device for our canine companions that is as innovative as it is fashion forward. It monitors your dog’s daily activity based on size, breed and age. In the future, WonderWoof will be launching beacons that can be placed around your house to help you determine your dog’s location and if he/she is eating and drinking normally.
For many owners, pets are like kids. As we continue to get progressively more and more connected, smart technology companies are finding ways to help us bring our pets into the family’s digital fold.
Artificial Intelligence in 2016: Powered by Your Data
The term “Artificial Intelligence” brings to mind HAL 9000 and Ray Kurzweil’s prediction of the singularity and possible robot uprising within our lifetimes. While the latter may be inevitable (just kidding), current advancements in A.I. are based on either machine learning (i.e., software that allows self-driving cars to learn from their experiences), or by the very same personal data that advertisers leverage to target relevant consumers.
Our experiences with Artificial Intelligence in 2016 will resemble that of a personal assistant, or butler. Advancements in Apple’s Siri, Facebook’s M, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s deep learning products will leverage personal data, purchase behavior, and mobile usage data to offer predictions, suggestions and timely notifications to help streamline our busy lives.
Messaging platform apps, such as Facebook Messenger, will be competing directly with smartphone-native A.I. platforms like Siri, as those chat environments lend themselves to warmer and more personal communication. Chatting with your A.I. assistant will feel like having a conversation with a friend.
The Rise of the Robots
A big theme for CES is the ‘automated life’. Much of this has centered on the connected home and the Internet of Things, but this year the big movement in automation is in robotics. There have been more robots on display at CES than ever before.
There was much hype about Segway’s partnership with Intel to create a hoverboard butler. The device is a personal transporter with a built-in interactive robot, which among other things can stream video and respond to voice commands. Double Robotics has brought out a new version of its telepresence robot – an iPad on a stick which moves around and live streams. In effect, it becomes your eyes and ears in the world around you without you having to go anywhere.
For brands, the movement in automated life technology is about helping consumers to have seamless experiences and to be efficient in their daily lives. Automation is also hugely benefiting brands as the industry develops ever more effective programmatic marketing solutions.
Virtual Reality Gets More Movement
Virtual reality (VR) is looking to take off in 2016 – and in a very real-world way. Samsung Gear VR headsets sold out over the holidays and Oculus finally opened pre-orders for its Rift headsets at the price of $599. And while we have been impressed by the capabilities of all of these headsets over the past year, we cannot help but wonder: What is next for VR?
Every next generation VR headset on display had incorporated spatial mapping and hand tracking. Startup uSens, Inc. built in infrared cameras so users could see their hands and control elements within the experience. South Korea’s brightest technology star, Samsung, integrated hand-motion controllers to add gesture controls. And Taiwan’s HTC is using external cameras to help with spatial tracking. As remarkable as these innovations are, the biggest player in VR is clearly Sony with its PlayStation VR.
Sony has introduced a technology that it has donned ‘the Move motion controller’, a hybrid device that simulates hands in the VR world and allows users to interact with virtual objects or fire weapons in games. What’s really helping it lead the VR field is its numbers: It has sold nearly 36 million PS4 consoles for $349 globally — and every single one is capable of running PlayStation VR. Sony’s VR headset is predicted to sell 1.9 million units in 2016. Game on, Sony. Game on.
Retailers welcome any new capability that creates a more intuitive online shopping experience, eliminates barriers to abandonment and reduces the length of the path-to-purchase.
While VR shopping experiences have been on display for years at CES, one in particular caught our eye this year. Modiface enables users to see (on a tablet) different versions of makeup on their faces through virtual reality. Users can change their makeup with motions such as moving their eyebrows.
For the beauty industry (makeup, hair, etc), these types of innovations can be game changing. Consumers can not only virtually test products, but they can also try things without makeup artist help. With more confidence, consumers will be more empowered during the shopping experience, obstacles to purchase can be eliminated and returns can be minimized.
360 Video Cameras: The Future of User Generated Content
Nikon and Kodak announced that they are introducing the industry’s first all-in-one portable solutions for 360 video capture. This is a welcome development for early adopters to the format, as the very early days of 360 video capture required the use of multiple DSLRs or action cameras. For instance Nikon’s Project Helix demo photo booth featured 96 Nikon D750 DSLR cameras to create killer 360 degree captures, drawing users into a helix.
And now, the Nikon KeyMission360 can capture 360 pictures and video in 4K with its two lenses. It is also shockproof and waterproof. Kodak’s PIXPRO SP360 records in HD with its single spherical lens and can be controlled remotely through an iOS or Android device.
Consumer interest and demand for 360 videos is surging as VR hardware such as Oculus Rift is introduced to the market, and familiar websites such as YouTube and Facebook include the ability to upload native, 360 content. The action camera market is very healthy, with nearly 10 million action cameras shipped globally in 2015.
Realistic 3D Avatars & Potential Future Applications
One of the most buzzworthy innovations at this year’s CES is wildly realistic 3D avatars. Intel’s integration of UraniomVR software and its real sense technology enables show-goers to use an HP tablet with 3D Intel cameras to map out a full mesh of their head and shoulders. Uraniom’s software then creates a 3D image uploaded to the cloud, which can be integrated into the game Fallout 4. The impressive graphic quality means your avatar has an insanely uncanny resemblance to yourself, enabling you to be totally immersed in Fallout.
And these realistic avatars have potential applications far beyond gaming. We can imagine a future where consumers can integrate their close-to-perfect 3D avatars into online shopping experiences (or any online experience). For instance, shoppers could use their avatars on apparel sites to try on clothes and find the perfect products for their shapes. While this tech is just for fun right now, it could eventually revolutionize online shopping.
This Year’s TV Buzzword: HDR
Every CES, a new TV technology is announced to drum up excitement and encourage users to upgrade. Sometimes these announcements are truly groundbreaking and set new industry standards: HD, OLED and 4K are great examples. Other years, new features fail to gain consumer traction (3D TV), or have little practical utility (curved screens).
The TV technology buzzword of 2016 is HDR, or high dynamic range (consumers may be already be familiar with the term from smartphone camera settings). Samsung and LG introduced new TVs with the standard and claim that HDR-enabled screens can show millions more colors and several more shades of brightness between black and white than normal displays. Moving forward, 4K TV sets will need to meet HDR standards to qualify as “Ultra HD Premium”. Sony, Panasonic, HiSense, TCL and Sharp have announced forthcoming TVs that will qualify for the badge.
The improvement in image quality is undeniable, but HDR feels like an incremental rather than revolutionary step, as the consumers wait for more widespread availability of 4K content.
LG Introduces Roll-Up Screen Technology
LG introduced an absolutely stunning advancement in the field of display tech by introducing flexible screen technology. Foldable/Rollable screen technology has been talked about for years now, but this is the first time that a brand has showcased an actual prototype on the show floor of CES.
The screen has full HD resolution and can be rolled-up, folded, or scrunched up like a piece of paper. The current prototype is relatively modest in size at just under 19”, but LG’s intention is to continue to develop the tech to current TV size dimensions. The tech is intended for digital signage (such as in a shop or for DOOH), but will also give interior design-minded consumers an alternative to having to sacrifice a wall or corner of a room for a large footprint screen.
The technology is still in its infancy and is years away from being fully developed. It is such a radical departure from current technology that is has the potential to reshape the dynamics of our entertainment rooms, in a way that is more profound than the transition from Cathode Ray to flat panel.
Health Tech Shows What Data Humanization Can Achieve
Our theme for CES 2016 is Humanizing Data and this has been evident throughout the show, notably in the huge growth in health and medical technology. All of these new gadgets – including wearables and health monitors – are based on smart use of data to enable consumers to keep track of their health and fitness.
There are so many new devices on display this year, but here a few interesting ones. Huawei’s Honor Band Z1 helps you track your fitness, performing tasks such as counting your steps and keeping a record of how you sleep. The DietSensor is an app-based product that allows you to assess the nutritional value of food. And the Levl tells you how much fat you are burning just by analyzing your breath.
And a great example of how data and technology can combine to provide a fascinating vision of the future is Genworth R70i. The exoskeleton suit offers an emulated experience of the effects of aging, simulating physical effects such as hearing impairments, mobility challenges, vision disorders, muscle loss and arthritis. This is surely the embodiment of humanizing data.
Media Owner Mindmeld
Thursday evening, ZenithOptimedia hosted a panel on humanizing data, hosted by Michael Kahn, CEO, Performics Worldwide. He was joined by Linda Yaccarino Chairman, Advertising Sales and Client Partnerships at NBCUniversal, Mark Thompson President and CEO of The New York Times, and Ben Lerer Co-Founder and CEO of Thrillist.
To start, Michael Kahn posed the question: how should advertisers and content publishers balance creativity and data science to create and optimize experiences?
Mark stated that while advertising started out as being 100% art, it has now shifted to a balance between art and science. Data science can help you create great content. The key is to have the right premium content and then use the data to set it on fire, according to Linda. How you use data is something that came up throughout the panel. Ben called out that you have to be careful how much you let data influence you, as there can be false positives and it should not drive every decision you make.