Why These 4 Emerging Technologies Stole The Show At CES 2018

The first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in June 1967 in New York City. With displays of the latest and greatest in consumer technology, the show has always been an indicator of just how much consumer behavior is shifting.

This year’s event was no exception. Overall, CES 2018 was characterized by the proliferation of voice assistant technology into the “devices” all around us, the reimagining of the automotive experience, the rise of digital reflective surfaces, and IoT.

Here are the biggest takeaways.

1. The Voice Ecosystem Is Rapidly Expanding
Amazon and Google are expanding their voice capabilities in the household by integrating into almost every kind of consumer appliance. The rapid rollout of ecosystem partners is setting up Amazon and Google for a clear early lead in replatforming the home.

Notable Amazon Alexa partnerships:

Notable Google Assistant partnerships:

  • LG (washing machines and dryers, refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, vacuums, air purifiers)
  • JBL (headphones, smart speakers)
  • Sony (smart TV’s)
  • DISH (satellite TV)
  • D-Link (smart home security devices, electrical appliances)
  • Schlage (smart locks)

“We basically envision a world where Alexa is everywhere,” Priya Abani, Amazon’s director of AVS enablement, told Wired this month.

Here’s why marketers should care: Voice is quickly becoming a ubiquitous interface across the entire fabric of digital devices. This is creating an entire behavioral intelligence layer that can unlock richer behavioral data as well as open up new forms of marketing message delivery.

While this is an exciting development, data still needs to be treated with care, ensuring users clearly understand how their data will be used and that consumption of that data adds value.

2. Car Dashboards And Windshields Are Being Reimagined As New Surfaces For Digital Experience
The in-car experience is currently being reshaped, CES demonstrated. Carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz, Byton, Harmon, and WayRay all released plans for smart dashboards in their vehicles. Powered by always-on mobile connections and an increasing array of internal sensors, these smart dashboards incorporate voice, gesture, and a high level of user customization.

How will creatives, marketers, and brands adapt? Just like the disruptions caused by smartphone touch surfaces and tablets, stakeholders will need guidance adapting to and fully utilizing the opportunities unlocked by digitizing the dashboard. This also exacerbates the need for multisurface design and content management.

These new dashboards are almost entirely touch-based interfaces, eliminating virtually all hard buttons and knobs from more traditional cockpit setups. Voice is also a new experience-design space that will need to be addressed.

The Mercedes MBUX digital surface replaces the entire dashboard interface. It will become available in all A-class (Europe) vehicles this spring, followed by the rest of the product line over the next couple of years.

This Byton electric SUV concept car incorporates digital surfaces from pillar to pillar as well as the steering interface, utilizing touch, voice, and gesture to interact with the vehicle.

Harman (now owned by Samsung) demonstrated a digital dashboard concept that emphasizes OLEDs and QLEDs for high visibility.

WayRay’s heads up display projects a wide array of information onto the driver’s windshield and is expected to be added to future generations of Honda vehicles.

Drivers will have a new set of interactions available to operate vehicles:

  • Gesture: Drivers simply point to interact (think: Microsoft Kinect).
  • Voice: Play music, weather updates, navigation, climate controls, etc. 
  • Artificial Intelligence: A driver can now state, “I am cold,” and the on-board AI will raise temperature accordingly, vs. having to explicitly state, “Raise the thermostat to 72 degrees.”

For the first time in history, the car has the potential to become a marketing surface. There will be new opportunities to engage with consumers in vehicles as they engage in entertainment, shopping, and social media.  

3. New Digital Surfaces Are Rapidly Proliferating, Potentially Opening Up New Forms Of Expression And Experience
Reflective surfaces are quickly becoming another new form of digital experience. In addition to displaying digital information, the newest generation of these smart mirrors integrates voice, computer vision, and artificial intelligence to offer new forms of interactivity and utility.

Use cases displayed at CES include:

  • Skin-care analysis: Sensors measure skin tone and combine that data with a user’s inventory of skincare products and weather to offer advice about keeping skin healthy.
  • Safer driving: Built-in cameras offer greater visibility for blind spots, projecting directions, and recording events in case of a collision/accident
  • Home dashboard: When integrated with a voice assistant, mirrors become access points for news, email, music, etc.

The combination of computer vision, artificial intelligence, and consumer household data potentially unlocks new forms of brand connection.  As these devices become more ubiquitous, brands will have the opportunity to create deeper relationships with their users and serve them in ways that were previously unavailable.

The HiMirror Mini incorporates computer vision to assess skin health and recommends treatment based on a user’s existing skin treatment products and local weather conditions.

The Anna smart mirror is a B2B use case targeting hotel guests. The display is touch-enabled, designed for public spaces or in-room, and offers weather, travel data, and marketing offers for hotel services.

4. The Internet Of Things Is Becoming Real For Healthcare And Intelligent 
Sensor arrays that combine computer vision with artificial intelligence are proliferating rapidly. The device landscape for these experiences, which in previous years was more hype than useful, is now maturing into use cases suitable for mass adoption.

UV Sense is a battery-free UV sensor that tracks UV exposure.

Smart Intersection demonstrates how an intelligent mesh of cameras, sensors, and vehicles interact to prevent collisions and enhance pedestrian safety.

With trillions of sensors channeling data about behavior from public and private sources, marketing professionals will face several decisions:

  1. Sorting out which data sources are meaningful for their objectives.
  2. Finding the appropriate means to subscribe to those sources.
  3. Ingesting them effectively, and wiring those data sources into experiences that add value for their users.

It’s safe to say that this year’s CES shows that technology disruption is only accelerating from here on in. Voice assistance isn’t just the future--it’s here now, and brands need to be paying close attention. Additionally, what was once thought of as the “automobile of the future” isn’t as far away as some people may think, and IoT is going to make us more connected than ever before. Fun times ahead for brand marketers.

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