It's that time again. The first look at future Black Friday door busters, at screen definition beyond the capacity of the human eye and at audio of sufficient precision and range to make dogs bark in Eureka Park. Welcome to CES 2016.
Marketing people like CES. Surely they do; they now show up in their thousands in the hope and expectation of the information and inspiration that will help them track an increasingly dizzying array of consumer choice and behavior.
Dizzy is a good place to start as the immersive experience of VR will be a major theme. The category needs to strike the balance between utility, wonder and nausea to enter the mainstream but with VR Gear, Hololens, Cardboard and Oculus either on the shelf now or by the end of the first quarter, we will know within a year if VR is going to be the biggest new consumer electronics category since the gaming console -- or just 3DTV redux.
If immersion occupies one pole of the CES experience, passive, invisible sensors occupy the other as the Internet of Things universe expands the internet and weaves it into the fabric of consumer consciousness.
All this makes us think that the CES acronym needs a tune up. It's not so much the Consumer Electronics Show, more the Connected Experience Show because connections between devices, sensors, people and their physical, augmented and virtual worlds is what this year's show promises.
So back to Eureka Park. If you are short of time or shoe leather this space at CES dedicated to startups is the place to focus on the future.
My colleague Cary Tilds, aka @ctilds, has curated a tour for our clients that focuses on that space alone. The emphasis is on four key themes:
- Making devices work better and longer, looking at new battery technology from the Paper
Battery Company and a low power IoT-focused cellular network from a 29-market French start up called Qowisio (proof at least of the global domain name shortage).
- Screens and devices that connect people and each other, including the ILY Family Phone using an app, a landline and a $300 screen for easy one touch voice and video connection with friends and family. We'll also look at Nanoport, a magnetic connector system that physically combines devices for the transfer of both data and power.
- Screen engagement, covering the emerging control systems of voice, gesture and haptic feedback combining to add human input and response to interaction with screens. Reach Bionics may look like it owes its design heritage to the props department of Game of Thrones but in fact allows its users to control VR experience with facial gestures. SynTouch BioTac mimics the sensory capabilities of human touch, which will solve first world problems of cashmere-sweater selection and far deeper challenges of robotic operations in human environments.
- Context analysis, the continued challenge of multi-language, accent and intent-based speech recognition, is being addressed by Fluent, while Stratio may enhance the world of augmented reality through the application of short wave infrared sensors that will discover and visualize data buried in everything from packaging to medical sensing and smart living applications.
There's more we will look for and learn from in Eureka Park and for those more interested in the curvature of life than the curvature of giant video displays this is the place to be.
You never know which single company or device will change the world but you know for sure that connections are central to the human behavior. Now we have the technology to bring objects and data to that connected experience.
Pack your comfy shoes and Dramamine.