CES 2018: Never work with children, animals or… robots

Thought Leadership
The Drum recently published this article by our Head of Creative Technology, Matthew Payne, offering his top trends to watch (and not) from this year’s CES event. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it below.

This year’s CES has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. First there was CLOi – LG’s AI powered bot which developed an unfortunate case of stage fright during a demo event. Then heavy Vegas rain led to flooding in the Google booth; fortunately the internet giant had impressed crowds in previous days, saving it from snarky sinking ship analogies. But CES hasn’t been a complete damp squib. Voice integration was everywhere, VR became a little more accessible and of course, the TVs were bloody massive.

Here’s my thoughts on the highs and lows over the last few days.


Voice integration everywhere
Voice may be the current battleground for tech giants, but in a voice-driven future it’s going to be relevant for all brands. Voice will be a product extension rather than an ad unit – for example, see Toyota’s announcement that it will add Alexa into select Toyota and Lexus vehicles this year. Voice is going to be everywhere soon and brands need to get to grips with it now.

Smart vehicles of the future
The Byton, a new car designed by former BMW and Apple employees, looks like a Batmobile for middle class city drivers and has some pretty nifty smart features too. It was overshadowed a little by Toyota’s refreshingly simple e-Palette – basically a box on wheels that can be used to carry passengers, make deliveries and so on. The future of the mobility-service economy? Perhaps.

Mobile is here to stay
Mobile is not going anywhere – Razer’s Project Linda, looking at mobile and laptop convergence, is just one example that shows how phones will become more powerful and more useful. The growth of voice won’t affect their ubiquity – we may use them less in the home, but they’re still going to be our dominant piece of tech.

The reality lens
AR/VR’s overhype has been and gone, and what CES is showing us now is a vision of what VR and augmented reality can realistically be; and the slower progression of getting the technology to a place where it can actually start to change our lives.

Wireless VR headsets will make its use a little less cumbersome, though they’re still mostly huge, and greater resolution and tracking will also continue to improve upon the user experience.

A more streamlined option is the Vuzix Alexa-enabled augmented reality glasses that almost look like real sunglasses. There’s also the added bonus of the integration with voice technology, giving users the option to ask for directions on-the-go (for example) and get presented with a real-time map on the AR screen. Downside, as always with VR, is the cost – at $1,000 they’re not in the realms of affordability for most.

Either way the company that finds a way to produce good looking headsets for any reality that people can actually afford is going to win this battle.

Suit up
The E-Skin smart shirt is my favourite standalone innovation of the last few days. Created by Japanese company Xenoma, it has 14 sensors across a skin tight black top. It could definitely help nudge VR along another notch into complete immersion. At the moment it’s used in gaming, but there it could be useful across a number of industries – the most obvious of which is sport, allowing athletes to track and improve their performance through this second skin, if you will.


Robot swimming Dolphin
The PowerDolphin looks like something from my daughter’s bath toy selection and is even less useful. Next.

Black Box VR’s gym headset
More PR than VR. I’m all for pushing VR, but there are better ways to motivate yourself to work out, in my humble opinion. And if you need a change of scenery during your workout, maybe just go outside.

Self-driving suitcase
The ForwardX CX-1 is a suitcase that will follow you around. Possibly useful if you’re negotiating a number of small children across an airport, but I’d like to see a demo on a cobbled pavement.

Petrics smart pet beds
Nuts, but will undoubtedly succeed as I can already think of a handful of people who would definitely buy one.

The Somnox snuggle pillow
A pillow that simulates breathing is just plain creepy. If you want to feel snug, get a hot water bottle like the good old days.