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The Top Five Trends at CES 2018

The Consumer Electronics Show is equal parts inspiring and exhausting.  Taking place in the already overwhelming city of Las Vegas, the show is a frenzy of the world’s biggest brands showcasing the future of technology, a parade of flashy devices and ever-thinner televisions.  Now that I’ve returned from the show and had a weekend to evaluate the chaos, here is my perspective on the top trends at this year’s CES.

1. Redefining the screen.

Sony’s 4K ultra-short throw projector TV didn’t look like much at first glance—in fact, I walked past it without realizing what it was.  Shaped like a coffee table, the device takes the place of your current TV stand…and then turns the wall directly behind it into a 120 inch television.

There were plenty of screens at CES and they all looked lovely, but to me there was something magical about this one.  I had never heard of short throw projection technology before the show, but all it took was one look at this TV to make me a believer.

2. Smarthomes get even smarter.

When I first heard about it, I assumed it was a joke.  A smart exhaust hood for your stove?  Does anyone really need that?  However, after spending a few minutes interacting with GE’s Kitchen Hub, I’m definitely intrigued by the possibilities.  Sure, it replaces your stove’s exhaust hood, but it’s actually much more than that—a central control system for all of your connected appliances, featuring a 27 inch touchscreen display that’s easy and fun to interact with.

You can look up recipes while cooking, take pictures of your dinner-in-progress, videochat with the built in cameras, and coordinate the family calendar.  Future updates will connect it to other appliances, allowing you to check on your laundry or confirm the correct ingredients are in your refrigerator without even opening it.

3. Google is everywhere.

From the moment I landed in Vegas, I saw Google everywhere.  On screens at the airport.  On the side of the Monorail running from hotels to the convention center.  Everywhere I turned, Google was there, touting the simplicity and effectiveness of the Google Assistant.

The most interesting thing about this marketing blitz is that Google themselves didn’t have any new hardware to announce at CES.  The big Google news came via their partnerships with other manufacturers, like the new Lenovo Smart Display.  Google knows that hardware comes and goes, and that the real staying power is in the software—or rather, the ecosystems that connect devices.  Which brings us to the next major trend…

4. The ever emerging ecosystems

I don’t think I saw a single booth at CES that didn’t have multiple brand logos on it.  Yes, the major standbys like Sony and Panasonic were massive and showcased dozens exciting new products, but look a little closer at any booth and you’ll spot other logos:  Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.

It’s not enough to just make a good device any more.  In the age of inter-connectivity, manufacturers want consumer to buy into a whole connected ecosystem—and companies like Google and Amazon are providing the infrastructure that enables devices to talk to each other.  Look for more and more partnerships to emerge here as Google and Amazon battle to provide the assistant and the software that connects every facet of daily life.

5. There is comfort in the tactile tangibles.

Shiny new tech is fun to look at, but it’s important to remember the real reason technology is important.  It should make our lives easier, more efficient, and more rewarding.  A new device with hundreds of features is a complete failure if those features are confusing or difficult to use.  The most successful brands in the coming years will be the ones that built tech that effectively integrates with their consumers’ daily life, with a minimum amount of learning curve.  User-centric design isn’t just a nice philosophy; it’s a necessity.

I wrapped up my tour of the CES show floor with a quick visit to Gibson guitars tent.  After a day spent looking at screens, examining smartcars from behind barriers, and watching videos that promised a brand’s vision of future connectivity, it felt wonderful to pick up a piece of technology and actually hold it in my hands—even though the device, a bass guitar, has only incrementally evolved since its creation over sixty five years ago.

The takeaway:  No matter how exciting a piece of technology may sound, the real value can only be defined when you hold it in your hands.

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