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Having been the place for consumer electronics for the best part of the 70’s and 80’s, CES lost out to the more internet-related events recently. Today, with connectivity added to almost every consumer device, CES is more influential than ever.
It’s huge: 250,000 delegates visited 3,800 exhibits across 25 venues. Major technology firms such as Intel and Qualcomm use it as their centerpiece industry show; many brands and agencies were there en masse. So, what are most interesting themes for 2017?
> Voice is the talking point:
Improved connectivity and computing power are accelerating the arrival of voice-activated services. Having spent the last few years concerned with the shift to mobile, we are now faced with a further move to voice-led experiences. Whilst the major tech players all have voice services, Amazon appears to be racing ahead with Alexa. By opening up this service, Amazon allows manufacturers to provide voice-led services without the time, quality and cost challenge of building their own equivalent. I am pretty sure Alexa was the most used word of the week.
> A driverless world:
Audi, Toyota, Faraday Futures and Hyundai all showcased working demos of their driverless cars. Microsoft launched its OS for driverless vehicles. (This was, markedly, in advance of last year where only concepts were talked about). Whilst these demonstrations are limited, the timeline for OEMs bringing these vehicles to market is becoming firmer.
Buzzing up above the cars, the market for drone quadcopters is maturing at a similar rate. Many manufacturers were present with Intel interestingly choosing to develop their own machines, demonstrating the various use cases from industrial support to entertainment. Failures like Lily Drone do not help build confidence, however.
> Connected Electronics Show:
The wide availability of lower cost components is leading to every single thing becoming connected. Sometimes the advantage is unclear, however there are use cases for consumer markets that make sense e.g. sound, heating and maintenance.
> Reality, checked:
Virtual Reality is continuing to mature, however still largely confined to the gaming and education categories. The headsets are much better now and offer a truly immersive experience (I could have played the new version of Rock Band all day) compared to the traditional Console + TV set up.
Augmented Reality is arguably more exciting in terms of commercial application to a wider set of experiences: however it is a little way behind VR in development. From future shopping to industrial engineering it is increasingly straightforward for businesses to seamlessly overlay virtual, digital content into real world situations.
> From fiction to fact, faster:
The final point is one of pace. The time from idea to market ready product is collapsing and Year on Year, CES highlights this. The combination of better connectivity, powerful computing and improved processing, on top of experience and learning from 15-20 years of delivering serious, web-enabled, digital services is generating more market-ready ideas, faster.
As Ray Kurzweil says, “You don’t know you’re in an explosion until it has happened”. CES suggests that we are in that explosion right now.
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