As many have said, one of the big stories of the show was how many companies are now integrating Alexa into what they're doing. Just look at this list from the Verge and you'll get a sense of the scope of how people are thinking about Alexa and voice in general. One person on one of my tours has seven Alexa's in their house and they've found many ways to integrate it into their lives. My in-laws have also gotten Alexa and use it quite frequently as well, showing how easily voice works for a wide range of demographics.
Some of the integrations are certainly less compelling than others and that's to be expected with the early experimentation. Some had Alexa just built in and others use the standard Alexa system. It's showing up in cars, appliances, TV's and all manner of electronics. As with VR/AR, using voice interface will require some new UX ideas, so that they really become a better way to get something done.
The second big story for me was the amount of VR/AR at the show. Just a few years ago, there was no VR section at all and any VR that was at CES was in far flung halls or being shown in meeting rooms. Now, it's a good hunk of the south hall and spread throughout the halls with many companies using VR to show off or explain their technology.
Qualcomm announced the new Snapdragon 835 chip, designed
To deliver significant improvements designed to drive tomorrow’s mobile experiences: ultra-fast charging and multi-day battery life, jaw-dropping AR/VR immersion, the most advanced camera capabilities, gigabit LTE and multi-gigabit Wi-Fi connectivity, and inside-out security — all of it complemented by machine-learning solutions designed to make our devices stunningly intelligent.
ODG launched the first AR headset based on the new chips and will be launching a consumer headset this year. Still pricey for the average consumer at $1,799, but a big step in the right direction. And while I like HoloLens, these glasses look a whole lot better. In a few years, AR glasses will really be just a pair of glasses or contact lenses.
One of my favorites was the Structure sensor from Occipital. With the Structure Sensor, the future is in your hands. Rapid 3D scanning of objects and people, 3D maps of interior spaces, and mixed reality experiences where fantasy becomes impossible to tell from reality. The Bridge Engine also lets you create pretty cool AR experiences using your actual space. Inside-out positional tracking lets you roam freely through any virtual environment, while obstacle avoidance helps you avoid objects or walls around you and Bridge is optimized for the iPhone.
I'm a big fan of AR and think it's something we'll use every day once the price is right. VR is something that we'll use to do something specific, like gaming, education, training, etc. AR will be a part of our every day life, like our phones are today. Our world will be augmented, creating the need for an entirely new UX.
Sometimes it seems like there are more car announcements at CES than there are at the auto shows. The north hall seems to get more cars every year. Last year, Faraday showed a very strange prototype that looked a lot like the Batmobile and sat one person. This year, Farady showed off their new car, the FF 91. They're making some great claims about their cars, it'll be interesting to see if they can deliver on them all.
One of the more interesting ideas was the new Mercedes Me app. Going beyond connecting your car, this new app is meant to connect your entire life. It's what they describe as the car being the central health hub. It's an interesting play on their part, connecting the car to the rest of your life. Here's how they describe it:
Imagine a vehicle that knows whether you’re stressed and nudges you to take a breath before the next scheduled appointment. Because it can read your pulse and see your upcoming schedule. A vehicle that can adjust ambient lighting, sounds and even scents to soothe the driver and passengers. A vehicle that becomes a key component of an active yet balanced lifestyle, working in unison with smart devices in the home and with wearables to generate a more holistic picture of one’s vital data.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out and whether or not people will be interested in it. But, as we move to autonomous cars and a time where people don't own their own cars, Mercedes seems to be looking for ways to always have value in your life.
Chrysler introduced the Portal concept car. They say it's designed for millennials, but honestly, it looks like a car that's being designed for autonomous driving. After all, if we don't have to do the driving, the interior needs to be completely different. Some of the things in the car I'm not as crazy about, like directional speakers that allow everyone in the car to listen to different music. They're pitching it as a "third place," but I think that's a little ambitious of a description for a car.
So Much Else
There were so many things there, it's really hard to categorize everything. There were a number of companies showing robots, from assembly lines to companions, they were all there. A few companies specialized in making robots that can help in retail and, while I think they're cool, I'd still rather speak to a person if I'm in the store. I do like some of what I call companion robots that were being shown. There were several for children that might read or incorporate Alexa like technology into them. Since they're mobile, they would be able to "follow" children throughout the house, so there could be some cool safety opportunities with them. While I didn't see any, I'm also interested in using robotics technology for senior care. As a member of the sandwich generation, I could probably use robots on both ends.
I really liked Whirlpool's Zera Food Recycler, which takes your food scraps and turns them into fertilizer without much effort on your part.
When I first saw SGNL, I thought it was interesting, but not compelling. But when I gave it a try I thought it was pretty cool! Sgnl is the smart strap that enables you to answer phone calls through your fingertip. Simply place your fingertip to your ear while speak through the embedded microphone. Replace your existing watch strap with Sgnl and you’re done, whether you wear a classic watch or an Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, or Pebble Time.
Some of the crazier items
There are always a few things on the show floor that make me shake my head and ask why. One was the fake TV light. Apparently, you set it up in your home and pretend there's a TV on so you won't get robbed. Yea, I don't know why you wouldn't just set a time on your TV either.
Or maybe you'd like a pair of shoes with built in vacuums? Densu showed off these prototypes this year. Of course, having 2 dogs who seem to shed enough hair to make a new dog every week, this may not be a bad idea.
Lastly, maybe you've been worried about all of the radiation you might be getting when you put you're phone in you pants pocket. Well, worry no more, Spartan undies will protect your privates! Sometimes I'm not aware of what needs protection.
All in all, it was an interesting show and I saw some things that were ready to go and others that were in early stages. As we've seen for the past few years, everything is and will continue to be connected. It opens up challenges for UX, security and privacy. With everything connected, our data trails are also growing larger and we'll need to figure out what that means pretty quickly. If it's not already too late.
Here are some various pictures from the floor and Vegas!