Walking the show floor of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show–the equivalent of 43 football fields–it was hard not to notice the crowd milling about one of the most well-attended exhibits: The Laundroid. The sleek, WiFi-connected box uses robotic arms, image recognition, and artificial intelligence (its network currently contains 256,000 images of clothing items) to identify a piece of clothing and determine the best way to fold it. It learns your clothing items over time and its app lets you assign items as belonging to different members of your household. It takes about 5-10 minutes to fold an item of clothing, so literally hours to fold one load of laundry.
It’s certainly not the most practical or promising technology on display at CES, but it is the one that got us incredibly excited about the future (and not because we hate doing laundry).
See, if there was a word to describe CES this year it was integration — the combining of different technologies (machine learning, image recognition or computer vision, robotics, voice, other sensors) to create experiences that will define the smarter future. Everything we engage with will increasingly have a technological layer, making Gartner’s prediction of more than 20 billion connected devices by 2020 seem entirely achievable.
Every year there are more and more mashups at CES. Sometimes they’re silly and sometimes they’re useful but either way they’re inspiring creativity. We identified seven areas of noteworthy integration technology:
1. The Smart Home
The application of integrated tech was most striking in home appliances and decor, as companies showed how voice could live in virtually every item in the home.
For example, bathroom and fixture company Kohler demoed its Kohler Konnect line, a new series of voice assistant-powered bathroom products. The line includes voice activated lights on a vanity mirror, gives users the ability to command their shower head on, setting water temperature and pressure just the way they like it and even a voice-powered faucet that will pour glasses of water on command.
2. Computer Vision
Beyond the home, integrated technology for the in-store retail experience was on full display from several companies. Computer vision, the technology that enables computers to recognize real-world objects from live camera feeds, was especially prevalent this year. Aipoly, a computer vision platform originally designed for the vision impaired, enables retail stores to be fully autonomous, tracking consumers as they shop, learning behaviors and eliminating the need for checkout. Using computer vision and artificial intelligence to help track and understand people’s shopping patterns in store, and then in turn tailoring and optimizing those experiences, has the potential to help make brick-and-mortar shopping experiences as trackable and personalized as e-commerce. Adoption of this technology is only expected to proliferate, with 37% of retailers already planning to use AI for customer experience personalization in the next 9 months.
3. Health, Fitness and Sports Tech
With hundreds of new technology applications across eldercare, athletic tracking, and health monitoring, sports tech was a present category at CES this year. From smart golf balls to computer-vision enabled sports arena cameras, sports tech had its biggest CES showing yet and demonstrated the many different ways that technology can enhance the games we love, wooing both enthusiasts and investors alike.
One great example of how to turn an everyday experience into an immersive and extraordinary one was Black Box VR. They’ve created the “world’s first virtual reality gym”, a space that converts traditional exercises into a video game experience. In one demo, chest presses launched fireballs at the enemy. Their first boutique gym will open in San Francisco this year.
Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home were everywhere–and often even in the same product. More and more manufacturers are enabling their products to work with both platforms, opening and expanding the voice ecosystem to further drive consumer adoption. 2018 will be the year that brands make real strides in ensuring discoverability on voice platforms via Voice SEO–or risk being caught flat-footed in what will be the dominant emerging interface for the next several years.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain, the underlying technology that powers it, is inching its way into the mainstream and at CES we were already seeing examples of this. Since getting started with cryptocurrency can be a bit daunting for newcomers, startups such as Subvisual are trying to bridge the gap between traditional payment solutions and cryptocurrencies by enabling merchants to accept payments with modern forms, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum using traditional mechanisms like credit cards.
There was a plethora of robots at CES this year, most of which seemed to focus on attempting to simulate human expression and emotions, rather than the industrial or military-style robots we are used to seeing in viral videos on social media. While robotics as a category is nothing new at CES, the integration of emotive technology is. By integrating human-like expressions, robots have become more approachable and comfortable to relate to than their emotionless counterparts. As robots continue to become more human-like, so do their usefulness. For example, there is a lot of interest and investment in robots that can augment (or in some cases even replace) child and elder care. Unlike humans, robots can provide constant care and attention without exhaustion. This has become especially popular in countries where the need for such specialized care is in high demand, and resources are dwindling.
While the idea of faster bandwidth might not seem very sexy or new, 5G, the next generation of mobile wireless networking, has the broadest-reaching impact for just about everything represented at CES 2018. 5G enables everything from your average smartphone to emerging technologies like virtual reality, to support extreme-bandwidth applications, such as 360 streaming 4k video on mobile headsets. From connected cars to email attachments, 5G will significantly boost (10 to 100x faster than current speeds) everything we experience on the mobile web, and be more secure, and more reliable than ever before.
The integration of technology across platforms, products, devices and applications, is having significant impact on consumer’s daily lives as tech-enabled experiences become unavoidable. With each command given to the kitchen sink and with each flat sheet folded consumers are growing more accustomed to seamless experiences and friction-less decision making. Integrated tech has brought the smart future to present.
360i’s CMO Abbey Klaassen, VP, Head of Innovation Technology Layne Harris and Senior Innovation Strategist Fitz Maro contributed to this post.