Surrounded by impressive tech on display in Shanghai this week, I found myself wondering, Why would a consumer want a US$4000 pair of headphones or a curved TV? We have to be mindful at events such as CES. The excitement can be infectious, so someone has to be the 'fun police' and keep us all grounded in reality.
Every time a new piece of technology is developed, a question needs to be asked: How does this positively contribute to a consumer’s life? Whether you’re a client-side marketer or an agency, we’re all in the business of communicating messages to consumers. We should be looking at this new technology as a potential avenue for reaching and engaging with consumers.
When we view technology through this lens, the possibilities are endless. I stand at CES and see the Intel 3D face-scanning technology as an interesting OOH activation, creating personalized avatars. Immersive 3D technologies such as the Oculus Rift can offer customers a new way to experience luxury—wherever they are. And drone technology is a really cool way of creating new kinds of content.
In other words, we should always be thinking about how technology might add to an experience or even serve as the foundation for one. Here are five trends that caught our imaginations at this year’s CES Asia.
1. The age of awkward hybrids
We’re living in an age of awkward hybrids. For example:
- Laptops and tablets are slowly merging into dual-purpose convertibles.
- Cars are merging with autonomous features. In the future, cars will be self-driving, but in the short-term, this technology takes the form of drive assists and improved navigation.
- Smartwatches. Are they watches? Are they computers? Designers are working to find a happy harmony here, but there does seem to be a place in the world for the internet on your wrist.
Technology’s advancement has led us to this point of multiple possibilities, but the real struggle is going to be to set aside our preconceived notions about technological development. For instance, should smartwatches look like regular watches if their functionality includes much more than telling time? This age of awkward design mergers and hybrids will eventually give way to solutions and form factors that make sense for their intended use cases with consumers.
An excellent example of this is the concept car Mercedes has developed with an eye for future self-driving technology. Rather than the standard front-facing configuration, Mercedes has created a car that looks more like a lounge, allowing commuters to face each other in a spacious setup. If you don’t need to drive yourself, why not make the experience more comfortable and natural?
2. Wearables finding their way
The question facing the tech industry today isn’t 'can we do it?' but rather 'should we do it?' Nowhere is this more apparent than in the wearable space, where manufacturers should be asking whether or not consumers are likely to find things like smartwatches useful. Overall, the sentiment is that as the technology improves, things like added features or longer battery life will make products more attractive to consumers, but in the meantime, wearables will have relatively low penetration concentrated primarily among early adopters.
3. Mobile is king. Long live the king
Mobile remains the dominant platform for most of the innovation occurring at CES. Whether it’s through apps that connect with various real-world peripherals or new hardware integrated directly into phones, mobile remains the central battleground for innovation—and for good reason. Consumers have accepted the role of smartphones into their daily lives, giving rise to cultural phenomena such as selfies, status updates and GPS mapping. As such, innovation will most easily be swallowed if it fully integrates mobile and adds value to consumer lives.
4. Internet of things
For the automotive and healthcare industries, the Internet of things (any device with an on/off switch that is connected to the internet) is going to make major strides in the coming years. However, privacy and security are issues that will need to be addressed in the coming years and some experts fully expect there to be sizeable breeches in this development phase that will force companies to rethink their security protocols.
5. Mobile peripherals
Beyond wearables, there’s a host of technology on display that can augment or add value to the “vanilla” mobile experience. Chief among these are audio peripherals, especially headphones. This is a big consumer trend, with players like Beats by Dre competing against the old guard of audiophiles (such as Sennheiser) and many new players. Beyond audio, 3D scanning, thermal cameras and other bits of Bluetooth-enabled hardware are exciting roads for the future, but it remains to be seen just how many of these exciting things are picked up by consumers.