When we set aside some of the more unusual offerings from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, some persistent themes emerge that provide a clear signal about where technology is heading over the next few years and the exciting implications for experience designers and marketers.
1. Digital Surfaces Everywhere
Digital displays continue to get bigger, more flexible, and richer. As more get installed in public spaces like malls, airports, subway stations, and stadiums, the opportunities to provide interactive, personalized experiences will proliferate.
These displays are bundled with artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and computer vision technology, which together have the potential to connect brands and consumers in ways never imagined before.
The 219-inch Samsung Wall uses micro-LED technology to create a super-bright image.
While large displays offer new experiences at the macro level, 2019 also looks to be the year when smart mirrors become more broadly available. Expect to see them in more upscale hotels, restaurants, and higher-end homes.
The Savvy Mirror from ElectricMirror can run apps from the Google Play app store and is voice-enabled.
2. Embedded Digital Assistants Become Ubiquitous
The battle for voice leadership among Microsoft (Cortana), Amazon (Alexa), Google (Assistant), and Apple (HomeKit+Siri) continues into 2019 as all these players announced multiple integrations and partnerships.
Voice technology is a key modality, removing a major source of friction from the more cumbersome keyboard, mouse, and touchscreen. Voice also promises to bring a more human form of storytelling to digital experiences, as well as an opportunity to engage consumers with personalized marketing in a more natural state.
The Bloom parasol automation device from ShadeCraft is Alexa-enabled and allows users to open/close an umbrella with voice commands.
3. Flexible Screens Finally Arrive
Manufacturers have been tinkering with flexible displays (e.g., foldable, rollable screens) for a few years, but we’ve only seen concepts and prototypes. Now it appears we’ll finally see commercial shipping versions of these displays in 2019, primarily in the form of foldable smartphones, but with the potential to scale into massive, outdoor experiences.
Expect flexible displays to become mainstream quickly, and, with their rollout experience, designers will have entirely new surfaces to work with. New forms of interaction and novelty can help breathe new life into outdoor spaces for brands.
Sharp returned to CES after a four-year absence to demonstrate its flexible display technology.
This purse with embedded flexible display by Royole is a great example of how these displays are evolving.
4. The Rise Of Holographics
As the demand for immersive experiences keeps rising, holographic displays promise to bring immersive environments into the mainstream without the need for clunky headsets or glasses. While still experimental, several manufacturers showcased holographic display devices at CES with lots of cool applications.
According to Hypervsn, a manufacturer of holographic displays, brick-and-mortar stores increase conversion rates between 30% to 40% when this kind of display is deployed.
5. Car Tech, Wearables, Robots
The balance of this year’s CES was an avalanche of gadgetry, most of which are refinements of themes we’re already familiar with. In-car dashboards are becoming more digital with improvements in voice and touch. These displays are also increasingly connected, providing a new marketing canvas for quick-service food and convenience stores, gas stations, and retailers.
Meantime, wearables are becoming more capable, especially around biometrics, and increasingly can communicate with medical systems to monitor and adjust lifestyles for optimal health. And robotics continue to proliferate as well, not just as a novelty but for more utilitarian use cases as well.
This 48-inch digital display from Chinese electric car maker Byton is controlled via steering wheel touchpad, voice, and gesture.
Yes, smart underwear—for consumers obsessed with measuring everything.
This suitcase from ForwardX follows you around using an array of sensors and cameras. Don’t worry: It’s TSA-approved because the battery can be removed.
What can CES tell us about how 2019 will unfold and what it means for experience, marketing, and advertising? Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- New surfaces are everywhere, creating canvasses for novel experiences and brand messaging. Opportunities for deeper, more frequent engagement will likely follow.
- Voice and gesture interfaces will make digital experiences less cumbersome and more familiar, with the potential to attract less digitally savvy users to engage.
- Immersive experiences will continue proliferating, and we’ll have to contend with clunky headsets/glasses for at least awhile longer. But as holographics and projection improve, immersive experiences will be able to break out from these restrictive devices.
- The world will continue to become more measured, imaged, and monitored. Both marketers and experience designers will have richer data to work with, but they should continue to be good data stewards with respect to privacy, disclosure, and creating value for end users.