CES…We’re Coming for You

With the holidays under our belt and the New Year in full swing, it can only mean one thing: it’s time for CES. The conference that gathers multiple industries together each year is only a few days away and, while the event can be a lot to manage, we have spent time pulling together a few highlights of what we’re most looking forward to.

Dave Meeker | Chief Innovation Officer

Artificial Intelligence Everywhere
Perhaps the biggest tech buzzword of 2018, AI is bound to make its way from corporate conference rooms onto product packaging in 2019, with CES being the grand coming out party. Every device that was once labeled as “smart” will now be assisted by AI and products you didn’t know needed it will surely tout how they are more intelligent than before. It will be interesting to see how products are impacted, and along with the “me too” experiences, there are sure to be some really interesting announcements and smart uses of the technology.

Now With Blockchain!
If storing their activity data on the cloud wasn’t enough to concern
consumers, the industry is sure to report that 2019 means we will increase security and authenticity of such transactions by tapping the shared ledger technology that we’ve come to know as blockchain. There are certainly opportunities to do this right, and the future will see a lot of machine-to-machine communication and robot-controlled information exchanges happening that rely on this to keep things on the up and up. I’m eager to see how brands have been able to translate the value of the technology into better products and services and aren’t simply using it as a way to seem smarter than they need to be.

Brain-machine Interfaces
At Isobar, we’ve used EEG headsets a lot over the years and they keep on getting better. Last year we introduced a way to gauge human emotional response to content and now offer that to our clients as a regular part of our services. The technology has been quite powerful in the hands of experts. CES 2019 should introduce ways for the average consumer to tap this technology in a way that surpasses the gimmicks of previous product attempts.

Augmented Customer Experiences
It’s time. We’ve proven out that Augmented Reality works — and beyond Snapchat filters and for posing with models of movie characters. It is time that the apps that act as companions to our consumer electronics take advantage of contextual data and AR-capable devices’ ability to bring it to users when needed for things like new product setup instructions, tutorials, and customer service and support use cases. One can hope anyway.

Leigh Christie | Director, NowLab Americas

This will be my fourth year at CES and I’m more excited than ever. The event seems to be more relevant to digital agencies every year. Here’s why: AI, AR and voice related products are booming right now. Voice-tech in particular seems poised to have a banner year at CES. With voice platforms such a Alexa and Google Assistant gaining millions of users per month, the hardware *touch*points (such as the Echo Dot and Google Home) are seen by many as they key to adoption. As such, dozens if not hundreds of startups and established brands are releasing new smart speakers, vehicle integrations, headphones and glasses that use Alexa and Google Assistant. There are others as well such as Samsung Bixby, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and IBM’s Watson, but they don’t seem to be getting the same kind of traction.

There have been pectacular failed attempts by Google (Glass) early this decade and, more recently ODG. As well as partial failures like Snapchat (spectacles). With these failures, you’d think that no one would dare to make smart glasses in 2019. However, that’s not the case. It is likely that we will see at least a dozen startups (and fortune 500 companies) showing off prototype smart glasses and, in some cases, commercially available AR and HUD glasses. They are not as powerful as Microsoft and Magic Leaps MR headsets, but they look like fairly ordinary glasses which makes them much more appealing to regular consumers. Brands that might announce new products and product release dates at CES: Thalmic North, Vuzix, Instagram, Snap, Bose (sound only), LetinAR, and more.

A much safer bet for tech pundits might be standalone 6dof VR headsets. Several are being released this year including Oculus Quest, Vive Focus, and (speculation) Google’s new 6dof system. Also, the next iteration of Microsoft’s Hololens is coming out which is, of course, MR, but still counts as standalone. It remains to be seen how much will be revealed during CES, but we will pay close attention.

Puja Kartan | Strategy Director

I’m incredibly excited for CES this year!

My biggest interests lie where trends are evolving from fringe to mainstream. CES is full of tons of gadgets and gismos but, for most of us, it’s hard to parse
out what’s actually real. What matters and what will be around in six months? And in two years? And why are these things better and more compelling than what exists today? These are the questions I get most often from my clients. Greater technology for technology’s sake is incredibly exciting, but it’s hard to comprehend why that impacts our daily lives.

My mission for CES is to find companies, solutions, and experiences that are on the brink of hitting a critical mass of consumers. This means keeping a pulse
on what’s new and compelling, and understanding how that can be applied to the real challenges we all face every day. And, while a critical mass doesn’t have to be the general public, it should have the potential to affect a significant portion of its target audience.

With that, here is what I am most excited to seek out:

Healthcare: Solutions that encourage healthy behaviors and gently guide consumers to better outcomes. A few years ago, we saw the massive wave of wearables, but these mostly reinforced already existing behaviors. What are companies doing to intervene and guide health and wellness before chronic conditions and injuries arise?
Automation: From self-driving cars to virtual assistants, I’m interested to find examples of how companies are rethinking a product or experience now that the operating part is being handled by a machine. What can we do with the inside of a car if a person isn’t driving? How could the design of an OR be different if a machine is performing a surgery?

Innovation: How companies are talking about and thinking about the innovations they bring to the market. Are the new technologies they’re debuting part of their core offerings or are they branching out into new markets and uncharted waters? How do these things tie to their existing businesses and what does that mean for the future of their organizations, and ultimately, their customers?

Social issues: Issues like global warming, food and healthcare desserts, and income inequality continue to be major issues in our society. Which issues are tech companies and emerging startups looking to tackle and what are some proposed solutions?

So, stay tuned next week for updates from our on-the-ground team and, as always, check back for our annual CES key trends report! If you’re looking for a quick refresher on 2018’s event, here’s last year’s report: https://www.isobar.com/us/en/news/ces-2018-with-isobar/