Groundbreaking, inspiring: #CES2015

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Following last week’s 2015 International CES, we asked our Head of Creative Technology in London, Matthew Payne, to share his and his team’s thoughts on what stood out for them at this year’s event.

CES

Ridiculously large and unbelievably high definition screens – check. Drool worthy concept cars – check. More health trackers – check. Internet of Things – check. It is, of course, CES 2015.

I was unable to attend this year’s show, which in no way has left me bitter (honestly). However, I have been left unimpressed with some of the main releases and at the same time, quietly excited by other snippets that have been pushed to the side.

One the things I think should have got more attention was the Compute Stick from Intel. Released for either PC or Linux with varying RAM and Flash Storage amounts, these little computers, no bigger than a stick of gum, have high potential in my eyes. Imagine a hot desking office where you just carry your stick around and plug it into any monitor – love it. Whilst still in their infancy, I’ll be keeping a close eye on their development and will obviously try and buy one without my wife knowing I have bought yet another computer. At least this one should be easy to hide.

Elsewhere we’ve seen even more Virtual Reality headsets, in what is becoming a saturated market for the hardware devices. Developers and startups working to make experiences for VR are the current heroes, rather than the people making yet another headset. We need more innovators in the software now, rather than just focusing on the hardware. The social aspect of what Virtually Reality can offer us is exciting for all. Brendan Iribe, Oculus’s Chief Executive, has said that they want to put 1 billion people into a virtual world. This is the aim and attitude that excites me more than the hardware.

Our Creative Technology & Development team followed the event closely. Here, a number of them have shared what they think is exciting, useful or just annoying at, or about, CES 2015. Oh, and Tom our Marketing Director wanted to get in on the action too.

Chris Applegate, Lead Creative Technologist

Peak wearable
2015’s CES has shown we’re approaching peak wearable. Nearly everyone at CES had a smartwatch out, and everyone else has something that in some way attaches to your body and does interesting stuff before the battery runs out.

Wearables, however, at the moment seem to be fixated around the idea of surveillance. True, some of that can be useful – take AmpStrip, a heart monitor that fits inside a sticky plaster – something that if they get it cheap enough, I can see the medical profession taking up and using in the near future.

ampstrip

But for the home market and the casual user, this surveillance may be overkill, to the point of ridiculous. For example, a headset that measures your brainwaves and shares them via your smartphone; cycle shorts that measure how long you’ve been in the saddle and how much you’re sweating; or a belt that measures how fat you’re getting. Even kids can get in on the action – there’s a temperature-tracking smart dummy to give parents one more thing to fret about.

The overall impression is that with these new technologies, we’re not so much cyborgs as lab rats. The wearer is a subject to be studied rather than a user to serve. What can be measured can be managed, so the saying goes. But once the novelty is over, who is going to want to pore over reams of data on how often you loosened your belt? What do we really get out of it, apart from feeling guilty about that third slice of pie, or that bike ride we skipped?

Perhaps once the craze for measurement has been and gone, we can look at wearables that actually do things that are useful, or fun, that make our everyday lives more interesting or connected, just as the smartphone did. But first we need to stop being obsessed by measurement and start thinking more about experience.

Alberto Gomez, Developer

Thync’s enforced happiness
From all the products in CES 2015, there is one that stands out for me. It’s something you would imagine in a distant future sci-fi movie, not in a tradeshow in the present day. Thync mood enhancer claims it has the power to change your mood. It achieves that by “sending ultrasonic waveforms to signal patterns in the brain” (whatever that means – your guess is as good as mine).

The device can induce your mind to three different states: energy, focus and calm. I’m sure many people will be wary of a device like this; how the brain works is still a big mystery in science. Tricking our brain to be in a state it’s not supposed to be in might have unexpected consequences, although Thync does stress the technology is backed by scientific studies and it is totally safe to use.

The Thync applies low electrical current to the brain in order to alter the wearer's mood

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this form of “mind altering” technology. Perhaps in the future it will be developed to have a broader palette of emotions. It also raises all sorts of scientific and philosophical questions. Would an artificially induced happiness still be happiness?

Jaswinder Virdee, Developer

Enhancing the everyday  
For me, CES stands for what’s new and coming to the hands of the mass market soon. But for the past couple of years, the events have seen more and more concept products featured to get the attention of media outlets; this year’s item being the driverless car from Mercedes. That’s going into very few hands even in the next 50 years. At this stage I feel our focus shouldn’t always be on new products per se, but new behaviours and accessories to make what we do have better. So my top picks from CES aren’t ground breaking, but enhance the tedious aspects of everyday life.

Most of us use a music streaming service. But switching between devices is a hassle, particularly on Spotify because it doesn’t remember between mobile and desktop where you are (I know – first world problem, right?). But at CES, Philips debuted its Spotify speakers; simply press the Spotify button on the speaker in your hallway and the music instantly picks up right where you left off on your last device. Simple, clever.

phillips speakers

On the same day Google announced the launch of Cast for Audio, allowing Cast-ready speakers to pick up your music where you left off. Granted this is new hardware and should perhaps be first bridged with an adapter to clip onto existing hardware, similar to Chromecast as affordable accessory. I think this will be first and best step to the more connected home of tomorrow.

On another note, improving life subtlety outside the home, QNX debuted video side mirrors on a Maserati to aid viewing blind spots, literally giving you the green light to change lanes. If this could be attached to any car as an accessory it would another short jump for man into the future without having to buy entirely new products.

Beth Allchurch, Developer

Electronics capable 3D Printing
My stand-out product from CES comes from Voxel8, a start-up based in Massachusets, headed by Harvard professor and leading materials researcher Dr. Jennifer Lewis. At CES the company unveiled a printer, also called Voxel8, capable of printing in both PLA and conductive silver ink, allowing for the creation of 3D electronic devices with embedded circuitry.

The most immediate benefits will be in the area of electronics design. Embedded circuitry will give designers more freedom, as rather than choosing where to place circuit boards the circuits will be integrated into the design itself. Prototyping will become easier and faster as testing a design becomes a matter of simply printing it out.

Michael Molitch-Hou, founder of The Reality Institute, shared even grander visions in 3dprintingindustry.com:

Once people begin designing for the Voxel8 platform, the company will be able to push their technology even further – perhaps, to an industrial scale. In the long term, one can imagine industrial printers capable of printing objects with embedded electronics en masse. Leveraging Lewis’s bioprinting research, it’s also possible to see a medical-grade version of their machine used in laboratory settings to 3D print multiple types of cellular materials into a single, biological object.

voxl8

And of course, there’s the tantalizing prospect of being able to download, customize, and print electronic devices in your own home. Voxel8 has opened up a huge range of possibilities with this product, but the real excitement will come when electronics designers and developers begin pushing at the boundaries of what’s possible with the Voxel8 and its successors.

Tom Ollerton, Marketing Director

Social teeth cleaning
My CES highlight is The Grush Gaming Toothbrush. It’s a smart toothbrush that turns cleaning your teeth into a game via a smartphone app. The accelerometer in your toothbrush tells you where you’ve missed a bit, but it also allows you to play a Temple Run-type game as you brush. This is meant to be an incentive for kids to spend more time on their pearly whites whilst also being a social game for families. It might just work…

grush Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.33.41