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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
https://gregswan.net/2015/01/10/73-cool-new-consumer-technology-innovations-from-ces-2015/
CES 2015: Technology Gets Personal
http://www.webershandwick.com/news/article/ces-2015-technology-gets-personal
CES 2015: Hardware is Back
http://www.webershandwick.com/news/article/ces-2015-hardware-is-back

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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!
Continue Reading…

CES 2008

Six years ago I busted out my brand new Flip Video Camera (!!!) and brand new Nikon D40 (!!) and spent four days walking around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) checking out the latest tech and communication innovations of the time.

CES 2008 hit in the midst of the iPod vs. Zune wars, the Blu-ray vs HD DVD wars, Nintendo’s Wii system surpassing Xbox and Playstation in sales, and Apple TV facing skepticism due to light sales, as critics considered that consumers were not really ready to buy and consume video entertainment via the web.

Don’t forget this was two years before the introduction of the iPad, almost two years before Avatar and the 3D TV boom, three years before the Nintendo 3DS, four years before the Nike Fuelband, and five years before Google Glass. In brief, compared to today, it was a simpler time in consumer tech.

I spent some time going through my photo and video archives from CES 2008, and the result is a unique look into what tech trends are still popular (giant TVs, helper robots), what are no longer popular (Zune, Fergie) and a handful of glimpses into the future (touchscreen experiences, mobile apps).

Highlights include: walls of giant TVs, fountains pouring water down TVs, booth babes playing electric cellos, harps and violins, giant car stereos, more walls of giant TVs, displays showing the features of the newest flip phones, a “dance with Fergie” photo booth, a giant Zune booth, Microsoft Surface demos, race car immersion experiences, toothbrush sterilizers, award-winning Guitar Hero controllers, smart toilets, networked computer banks, a touchscreen Yahoo mobile widget display (with links to MySpace, MTV and eBay), a 35 foot tall Bumblebee from the original Transformers movie, robots, Roombas, more robots, and a laser mounted household paper towel dispenser, faucet and garbage can.

Bumblebee, CES 2008

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In one of the smaller conference spaces (the best parts, if you ask me), I came across these young guys who designed the iShoes — electric snowshoes that go 13 mph. It turned out they were from Eden Prairie, MN.

iShoes, CES 2008

Later, I came around the corner from a wall of giant TVs and experienced a handful of geeks with their feet in buckets of brown sludge. It was an Alimtox footbath detox station and so out of place I started filming with my Flipcam.

You can hear the guy with his feet in a bucket at the end of the video say, “This will be streaming later today,” and me say, “That’s true, actually.”

Because that was a unique happening six years ago. Today, it’s the norm.

And here’s a full demo of the Microsoft Surface, which is fascinating not because the trend of giant touchscreen tabletops became a reality, but because mini-touchscreen tablets (iPads) are absolutely mainstream six years later.

Microsoft Surface, CES 2008

In another hall, I experienced the joy of Guitar Hero Air Guitar Rocker, of which I wrote this at the time:

Guitar Hero, CES 2008

As if pretending to play the guitar didn’t already make you a lame-o, check this out.

It’s the Guitar Hero brand Air Guitar Rocker from Jada Toys, with a GH-branded belt, wearable amp programmed with 10 songs and special pick you strum in front of the belt. It also has an output for external speakers. Songs include 5 originals plus Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”

It’s actually quite harder to play than it looks. This guy was really horrible. But then again, it’s nothing nearly as hard as actually learning to play an instrument.

One morning Robert Scoble organized a DSLR photo walk at 6 a.m. down the Las Vegas strip. Four of us showed up. Afterward we went out for breakfast and he turned to me holding his giant Nokia phone, said “We’re live. Introduce yourself,” and I found myself talking to a couple hundred folks on Qik. Another “first” and precursor to live- and life-streaming that is so prevalent today.

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

Las Vegas at 6 a.m. - 2008

That week I also toured the How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb exhibit at The Atomic Testing Museum (original post here), which I think about and/or reference at least monthly to this day. All of those guys are dead now.

I also hit The Beatles’ Cirque du Soleil show “Love” at the Mirage (full review here). It was stellar, crappy Blackberry camera phone pics notwithstanding.

So that was only 6 years ago…
As we reflect on the tech trends of early 2008 and prepare for CES 2014, we’re entering an era where smartphone and tablet factory revenue are expected to exceed the entire consumer electronics market this year, and for the first time, as mobile demand continues to outpace more traditional technology. And consumer confidence toward technology is rising to some of its highest levels — dating to late 2007.

We live in a special time for technology innovation, and it’s exciting to go into this year’s CES with eyes wide open that