Archives For Connected Home

(cross-posted from the space150 blog)

We recently attended CES 2017 in Las Vegas. This year, our annual pilgrimage to tech’s biggest showcase underscored a lot of what we’ve been exploring at space150 in 2016, including voice-enabled devices and VR, but in many instances set the stage for new exploration in 2017. From a new definition of sensory perception to diverging definition for the future of mobility. One thing was clear – 2017 will be exciting.

Below, please find trends we’re watching in 2017 and beyond following CES:

Assistance Through Assistants

While a decade ago, cameras and photos were the function that drove tech, today, microphones are the new cameras. More and more, on-demand, voice-enabled is becoming mainstream. Amazon and their Alexa won CES, and they didn’t even have a formal presence.

While this may mean some very useless and rudimentary experimentation with voice assistants in the short-term, we also saw some gems. Whirlpool, for example, announced appliances that respond to your voice (via Alexa), as did Ford. GE also rolled out voice-enabled appliances. The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly practical and affordable, and no where are voice assistants more logical than when built into these systems. I think about my kids who have an expectation for touch screens – but this lays out a future that is much more on-demand. Imagine your child’s first word is “Alexa” or “Ok, Google”.

There was also a lot of buzz about the over complication of consumer devices by making them IoT-capable. Does a hairbrush or clothes iron need an app? Not today (although those products also launched at CES 2017). But the more data we have and greater connectivity of our lives, the more possibility advertisers have to truly understand how consumers act, use products and understand messages. Today, I can ask Alexa in my kitchen to start my car or how much gas is left, and that would have seemed ridiculous five years ago. Now you can turn on and check the status of your iron, coffee pot and crock pot the same way.

What does this mean for brands? As agencies and marketers, we need to help brands think through how screenless and voice-controlled interfaces so that we can add value to the consumer. What is your consumer’s experience with your brand using solely their voice, and how can you provide value day-to-day for them by connecting your existing apps, databases and your knowledge of them? At space150, we launched an Alexa Skill in December, and we’re still learning from that as we build these for clients — interaction design, tonality and more. 

Adding New Senses to Experience Design, UX and Products

On that note – and in addition to Voice, at CES we saw a significant amount of innovations in audio, gestures and haptics. More and more we saw the idea of going beyond the touchscreen to actually bringing feeling to our digital lives. This isn’t smell-o-vision. These are screens and air gestures we can genuinely feel as if they are physical objects.

We saw haptic (touch) technology coming to  shoes, shirts, dashboards, TVs and touchscreens. One of the more interesting demos we saw was Tanvas, which wants to add the ability to feel texture on a touchscreen with a new haptic feedback technology rooted in ultrasonics. Imagine a world where a haptic forcefield could keep your fingers away from hot surfaces such as an oven. That was a demo, and it was impressive (assuming you can keep bacon grease out of the tiny speakers). We also saw VR shoe demos designed to give the wearer the feeling of rough or wet texture. It’s early for this technology, but it’s certainly an area we’ll be monitoring. 

For brands, this mean that we need to start thinking about senses beyond sight and designing for touch. Textures, gestures and feelings will dramatically change how we think about user experiences and how our customers interact with our content, apps and products. 

VR Entering the Age of Inside-Out Enlightenment

Every single major brand (auto/electronics/home/IoT/drone/photography/etc) had some type of VR, 360º or AR experience in their booth this year to tell their story to attendees using immersive media. Most of the experiences were rudimentary and focused more on using VR/AR technology to build a line at the booth versus telling an amazing story using this new medium. But that wasn’t the story worth telling this year.

The biggest VR product launches worth noting at CES 2017 were: 1) Wireless VR coming thanks to new HTC Vive options, and 2) Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Power Rangers Demo, which shows the true future of inside-out VR — powered by your phone, not a helmet hooked to a powerful computer. Think Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream except it’s six degrees of freedom. This is truly walk-around VR, not 360º video or just up/down/left/right controls.

This is the future of VR/AR — wireless experiences powered by your phone, and we caught a glimpse this year. And although it’s early days, the future of these experiences will be mobile. But the technology is going to take time to get there, from hardware to software to the developer kits that make them run. Marketers should focus on how to tell stories people care about with this new tech as part of their toolboxes. Inside-out, mobile VR is only going to grow, but the only way to be ready for the future is to understand where we’re at today.

Autonomous Cars are on a Mainstream Collision Course

One of the more interesting anecdotes we heard at CES this year was from Shelly Palmer, who advises companies like Verizon on innovation. He relayed a story about Ford CEO Alan Mullaly at CES in 2012 who said at that time that, due to risk and regulations and insurance and human nature, we would never see autonomous cars in our lifetime. But here we are five years later and CES was aflame with autonomous, self-driving and assisted driving innovation.

This year, every major automaker was showing off self-driving templates, sensors, and technology that envision a much different future than what Mr. Mullaly claimed in 2012. In fact, Ford has now announced production of a fully autonomous ride-sharing fleet by 2021. The competition fierce with each company taking a different path. However, what was clear is that driving as we know it now looks much much different in the future. It will change very drastically in the coming years, and every single car company at the show (including Honda, their first year) was showing off their take on this emerging tech.

For brands, we are at the beginning of a post-ownership and post-human-driver age, and that’s worth noting. Volkswagen painted a picture (via VR demo) of all the free time consumers will have in their vehicles when they don’t have to concentrate on driving. This means brands will have new moments to capture a consumer’s attention and new considerations for when, where and how we can engage them with a brand message during this downtime. It also means smart brands are going to starting thinking about this tech ecosystem early to be prepared.

Robots Are Real

One of our least favorite “trends” this year was the continued infatuation with anthropomorphic robots — or robots that look and act like humans.

The media coverage coming out of the show seemed fixated on some examples of robots that walk like us, play chess like us, follow us around and read to our kids. In our opinion these are a distraction from some of the more innovative ways that AI and computer-assistance are really positioned to improve our lives. Because, the robots — machines capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer — are already here. They’re in our pockets, our cars, our homes and workplaces.

We’re seeing less desire year-over-year for C3PO-style, Rosie The Robot-style tech, and believe brands should instead be laser focused on creating intelligent systems that tie to the cloud and improve our lives.

How Brands Told Stories in Unique Ways at CES 2017

Finally, we saw some tremendous brand storytelling that tapped into emerging tech at this year’s show. Specifically, we would call out a few brands:

  • American Express (client) used CES as an opportunity to unveil an Escape Room for visitors with branded clues.
  • Meanwhile Intel used AR/Hololens tech to showcase storytelling with “invisible” technology.
  • Finally, leveraging the upcoming Power Rangers movie, Qualcomm used CES to create buzz for its new inside-out VR tracking, using a Power Rangers helmet.

Check out our video run-down below. We shot the whole thing using Snapchat Spectacles for that POV feeling. Based on the trajectory of the trends we saw, we expect 2018 to be an even more innovative year for CES. 

What’s Next?

Join space150 for Excited for Change: 2017 Trends for the Modern Marketer in Minneapolis on January 8th. Our VP of Brand Innovation, Greg Swan, will be leading this MIMA panel with leaders from Land O’Lakes Inc., Thomson Reuters, Fjorge and Regis for a forward-looking discussion on 2017 trends, what’s next, and how to avoid fad fatigue in 2017.

Tickets available here.

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ces 2015 Ah, the Consumer Electronics Show: the annual international destination for the most forward-looking technology each year, matched with a frenetic navel-gazing from industry insiders that pales only to the self-aggrandizing swagger of the tech world’s brand behemoths, and big promises from baby hardware start-ups hoping to make it big on a non-working plastic prototype and a semi-polished sales pitch.

Oh, and there are always more than a few gems that make it all worthwhile.

It’s a huge show. I logged 40,000 steps walking every aisle of the show floor over 48 hours, and I’m sure I still missed something.

It’s my third trip to Vegas for the annual tech toy fest. The first was seven years ago (2008 recap); then last year (2014 recap).

For 2015, I can tell you I was inspired, underwhelmed and energized at what I found at this year’s show. This was a year of paradox for a culture in the age of technology transition.

There were more booths with Oculus Rift virtual reality demos than companies selling the 360 degree cameras and software needed to create content for it. 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.

There was more talk about autonomous cars as a guaranteed reality than the infrastructure and near-term, baby-step innovations required to support a more realistic evolution.

The TVs this year were truly more picturesque than real life. Except the majority of programming is just finally starting to catch up to 4k, so buying an 8k TV would be lots of wasted pixels.

I 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.

There were drones galore. Talk about smart watches, smart homes and smart wallets. But none of it actually plays very well together, and not a lot of it solves immediate problems.

It seems to be common knowledge that if a device can send a notification to your phone, then it’s awesome. I struggle to disagree with this assessment, myself. And enchanted objects — regardless of how life-improving they may be — make non-smart objects look all the more dumb.

There were an increased number of 3D printers this year, and an encouraging base of 3D handheld scanners and material providers growing up to bolster the category.

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.

Meanwhile, the rise in haptic technology is truly amazing, and I look forward to that category growing into our computers, wearables and autos. Although, someone will surely get burned (literally), and I fear miseducation will impede its adoption. I guess we’ll see.

Here are some of the advancements I saw this year that caught my eye, separated into the following categories:

  • Virtual Reality
  • The Future of Hands Free
  • Technology to Impact Your Daily Life
  • The Future of Personal Transportation
  • Television
  • The Drones are Coming!
  • Internet of Things
  • Robots, because CES
  • Music
  • The Ridiculous Side of CES

Here we go!
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Microsoft smart home 1999For decades, humans have been obsessed with smart home technology that: opens automated window blinds when we wake up, orders pizza with the push of a button, creates custom entertainment and lightning experiences based on the user, and orders food automatically when our refrigerators are depleted.

These are the tenets of the smart home past, present and future.

In 1999, Microsoft produced this video on the home of the future, and you know what?

Just about everything that futurists at MSFT predicted is coming to fruition. Although, ironically, it’s Apple who is developing the operating system that will knit it all together.

[via Quartz]

If you dig this, be sure to check out how Looney Tunes imagined the automated home of the future 60 years ago.

Google Glass Explorer Meetup 2014 SXSWThis was my eighth year attending South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) in Austin, TX, and the expectations were high.

The key theme I took away from SXSW 2013 was “Exponential Thinking, Exponential Opportunities,” and capitalizing on that thinking and opportunity, the main theme I took from SXSW this year was “Quit looking to others for the next big thing. Go make it yourself.

If you followed the media attention on this year’s SXSW closely, you surely noticed there wasn’t a breakout app or innovation this year. The whole “What’s the next Twitter?” expectation has grown tired for many of us longtime attendees, but the notion isn’t as misdirected as one may think.

The opening and closing keynote presentations indirectly addressed that expectation, plus the question of whose responsibility it is to create innovation that impacts society. But there’s a twist to the tone for addressing those questions in 2014.

You see, these kinds of events aren’t about the breakouts and newsmakers…. they are about the community that inevitably designs, builds and launches the breakouts — and the people who become the newsmakers. It’s about the community who comes together, at least once a year, to connect, share, learn and collaborate.

Opening keynote presenter and artist Austin Kleon shared Brian Eno’s concept of Scenius (genius coming from a collaboration of a group, culture or movement; a community that is critical to support all amazing ideas and big thinkers).

Closing keynote presenter and futurist Bruce Sterling told of the need to mature beyond nostalgia for the past. And as I attended sessions, met new people and experienced new interactive milestones between the opening and closing keynotes, I concluded that we should stop looking for the “next Twitter” or “next Foursquare” or “next Zuckerberg” at these events, and go make something ourselves.

Because after all, this is our scenius. This our collaborative community. This community has created great things in the past, and it will again. But only if we put the onus on ourselves.

So in the spirit of the scenius of 2014, I treated the conference differently in a number of ways:

    Lauren Melcher, Lindsi Gish, Amanda Long, Angie Gassett, Steffen Ryan, Nathan Wright, Greg Swan

  • Introduced myself to fellow attendees without mentioning what I did and where I worked, and asked the same of them. It forced us to dig deep into who we are, what we’re creating, and who we want to be.
  • Held a number of “stranger dinners,” where I invited people — those I had just met, people I know from back home I never see, and people I genuinely want to know better — to stop, have dinner, process what they heard in sessions that day, and clear the dishes to have a discussion.
  • Sought out 1:1 time with my coworkers, particularly those I see so rarely from our network, to connect, offer help and seek advice.
  • Made time apart from or in lieu of panels to attend things like the Google Glass Explorer Meetup, SXSXinspiration Meetup, and Facebook’s Politics, Government and Non-Profits Networking Meetup, taking the initiative to meet new people and foster new connections with those attending the conference officially with a badge — as well as those unofficially enjoying the non-conference events on the fringe.
  • Journaled some ideas for never-been-done-before things I want to build in the coming year.

And here are some of the favorite things we discussed as the 2014 “scenius” gathered in Austin this year:

    Greg Swan 3D Printed Bust and Face

  • You can’t fight technology’s progress. And we should work to adapt our society to leverage new technology.
  • White collar, repetitive knowledge workers will be replaced by automation, just as robots replaced blue collar, manufacturing workers.
  • No great artist or filmmaker ever referred to their works as “content.”
  • We can record the biometrics of everyone in the world in the cloud — and still have plenty of storage left for all of human history.
  • The importance of privacy, personal data and abuse from government.
  • The state of curiosity is a measure of intelligence.
  • The future of ethical programming for autonomous experiences.
  • The risk of legislators creating laws about technology they don’t understand.
  • The cultural dissonance of technology that comes from the introduction of new devices.

Pretty great topics, right? Oh, and I also got 3D scanned and printed. That was a first.

Overall, another amazing year. I came back energized and excited for what’s to come in 2014. Let’s go make something!

Full notes (via Twitter) broken out by session/topic after the jump!

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How Looney Tunes imagined the automated home of the future 60 years ago…

Looney Tunes Automated Home circa 1954

“Design for Leaving” is a Looney Tunes short from 1954 parodying smart home technology of the day, including the Design for Living House in the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Elmer Fudd Intelligent Home

Daffy plays a salesman from the Acme Future-Antic Push-Button Home of Tomorrow Household Appliance Company who installs the most wonderful intelligent home systems in Elmer Fudd’s home (sending him to Duluth while the installation was completed!).

Elmer Fudd Duluth van and storage co

The “system of the future” includes advancements in automated fire monitoring and home security, cleaning devices for wall scrubbing and window washing, tie-tying, a home elevator, and a most impressive central control panel filled with a hundred buttons that control all of the new appliances.

This episode aired almost 10 years before The Jetsons, and it’s fun to see a lot of this technology come to fruition 60 years later.

nestAs Google buys Nest today, it increases the pressure for consumers to decide what type of operating system they want their home to run. And what types of off-the-shelf and add-on devices they should buy.

Is your connected home a Mac or a PC? Apple or Android? The internet of things works best when the things can talk to each other, and that requires a consolidated operating system.

I specifically was giving a home security company a bad time about this at CES last week. I want my furnace, smoke detector, security system, Dropcam, doorbell, refrigerator, oven, phone, cable and internet provider to all speak to each other.

But right now I’m locked into contracts with a handful of service providers who do not sell the best and most innovative connected home products. And of course, they don’t talk to each other. Because that’s not something expected, until recently.

The new situation is quite literally the Mac vs. PC and Apple vs. Android wars, except this time the battle has moved from laptops and phones to your home.

The dominant players will not necessarily be first to market, but instead disrupt traditional thinking and look to scoop up the innovators who are solving problems outside the legacy infrastructure and bureaucracy that has held back the legacy home product companies.

Naysayers will point out that an internet outage will create new headaches and hurdles for connected home users. And they’re correct. And that won’t stop consumers from installing value-adding technology to their home.

Kudos to Nest and Google. Now where’s my tweeting ice maker?