Bigger, better and more: CES 2015

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the annual international destination for the most forward-looking technology each year, and Weber Shandwick supports clients on the ground and remotely each year.

But we also view the show as a look into what’s next, what’s dead and where brands should be focusing their efforts. This year we logged more than 40,000 steps checking out the amazing launches from the tech world’s brand behemoths, but also digging into the small start-ups hoping to make it big.

It’s a show of bigger, better and more.

Here are three of the top trends from 2015:

Virtual Reality (VR)

This year there were more booths with Oculus Rift VR demos than companies selling the cameras and software needed to create content for the popular helmet. However, there were many companies exploring new ways to maneuver in 3D and IRL realms, including via feet, ears, wrist and shoes. And NFC tattoos. One company was handing out branded Google Cardboard as tchotchkes.

Implication: Rift, Gear and Cardboard should be viewed as a gateway products designed to test the waters of new user behavior and how humans interact with each other, entertain ourselves and experience the digital world. But one-off 3D tours or videos are forgettable experiences consumers will quickly dismiss. Brands must be thinking of their long-term VR plans, even if that’s a test and learn approach.

The Growing World of Smart Everything

It seems to be common knowledge that if a device can send a notification to your phone, then it’s awesome. And enchanted objects — regardless of how life-improving they may be — make non-smart objects look all the more dumb. But with all of the talk about smart watches, smart activity trackers, smart homes and smart wallets, none of it actually plays very well together. And not a lot of it solves immediate problems. There were at least two car companies at CES 2015 demonstrating vehicles that will park themselves when the user pushes a button on their watch. Is that really something that’s necessary?

Implication: Last year, the threat of an Apple Watch loomed over the wrist wearable and smart watch vendors. This year Apple stole some mindshare by announcing a March launch date on the first day of the show. Despite the popularity of certain activity trackers and smart watches in early 2015, brands should be thinking of their device-agnostic smart watch content strategy today. Yes: smart watch content strategy is a thing. As for the Internet of Things coming to our cars and homes, it’s important to remember we’re in the early stages, and without a unified language and data privacy advances, many of today’s smartest products will live in isolation. It’s lonely being a Thing in the Internet of Things, you know.

Ubiquity of Sensors and the Maturation of Haptics

As sensors continue to drop in price and increase in utility and ease of implementation, look for even more smart technology and well-meaning but misinformed consumers interacting with it. For example, we witnessed people walking up to strangers and letting them plop a brain scanner on their noggin without a semblance of acknowledgement there could be side effects — or who owned the data from the experience. But there’s hope, too! The accessibility of sensors means we can start to solve new problems and introduce new use cases for technology we had never considered.

Implication: The implementation of haptic (tactile feedback) technology in our phones, car dashboards and computers means users may soon no longer just use the sense of vision to interact with a device (or experience a brand’s content!). Sure, your website is mobile responsive so it looks good on desktop/tablet/phone, but what does it feel like? And one company has built a wearable sensor that allows ear wiggling to control actions on a phone or computer.

Okay, so you may be rolling your eyes at ear wiggling smart things or brain-controlled remote control cars (both of which we experienced at CES 2015), but there is a completely new generation of additive technology solutions worth paying attention to as we dream about what’s here, what’s dead and where brands should be focusing their efforts. — Greg Swan, @gregswan

More on CES 2015 here:
73 cool new consumer technology innovations from CES 2015
CES 2015: Technology Gets Personal
CES 2015: Hardware is Back

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