Evol8tion's Take on CES 2017
CES 2017, the 50th anniversary of the show, has come and gone. This year featured the typical mix of breakthrough technologies, practical innovations, and head-scratching rubbish.
This year we took a different approach to coverage. Instead of attempting to recap the entire mammoth event, several members of the Evol8tion team weighed in on the themes they found most resonating. These are our hot takes.
CES 2017 Bucketing List
By Joseph Jaffe
At Evol8tion, we segment all solutions into 3 key buckets:
- Better, Cheaper, Faster
- Consumer Tech Adoption (Utility)
This is probably a fairly efficient way of categorizing all of your CES lists, best-ofs and buzz.
For example, in the Better, Cheaper, Faster (pick 2) category, LG’s Oled TV is now credit card thin, which is kind of ironic as the first thing it will hit will be your credit card.
Tech.Co’s Startup Night co-winners, Cujo and In&motion fit into the second category, bringing peace of mind in the form of a smart firewall that guards all devices in your connected home and smart wearable airbags for extreme sports enthusiasts, respectively.
As for disruption, that’s in the eye of the beholder if you think about it. (Unless someone created a standardized and uniform disruption index at CES, which would be cool.) If you were at CES, what truly disruptive technology, invention, innovation or startup did you see that will revolutionize the world as we know it? Would you stick out your neck and bet your reputation on it?
As a friendly reminder, this week is the 10 year anniversary the iPhone was introduced (at Macworld, not CES, for what it’s worth).
Four Questions Before Jumping Into Bed with Alexa
By Ben Tannenbaum
Alexa "won” CES this year. With their voice assistant operating system, Amazon is hoping to usher in voice as the next mainstream computing interface. The pundits and prognosticators all seem to agree it will.
Amazon is way ahead in terms of integration partners and shipped devices - everyone else is playing catch up. Accordingly, Amazon Echo was everywhere on the CES floor, while Google Home devices were few and far between.
This is the objective truth. But as often is the case with CES, it’s difficult to to decouple the truth from the hype. There were more than enough headlines this Monday to convince marketers they need to get some sort of brand experience live on Alexa. All aboard the hype train.
Before you follow the crowd down that rabbit hole, here are some questions brands should consider:
- How much are you spending? Small bets provide an antidote to risk adversity in this rapidly changing digital landscape. Betting the farm? Not so much. Google and Microsoft may be lagging (not to mention Baidu's Little Fish, which might just be the Amazon Echo of China, whatever that means), but the race isn’t over. No need to go all-in on Alexa just yet.
- What problem are you trying to solve? Perhaps you want to find a new and unique way to provide value to your customers and increasing intimacy, like Campbell’s did when they launched Campbell's Kitchen for Alexa. In 2015. Don’t rush to create Alexa experiences for your brand solely because of the hype. Listen to your customers and find relevant ways to engage with them. This may include a voice-first experience, but it may not. If it does, identify a specific goal for your project. You can’t evaluate success without an actual hypothesis to test against.
- Why do you want to work with Alexa when your website sucks, you have no mobile strategy, and your social media presence mirrors dissociative identity disorder? If you have budget set aside specifically for innovation, feel free to skip to the next question. For everyone else, please prioritize. While Alexa may fundamentally change the way we live, I can promise it won’t be a panacea for all the problems that $50 million in ad spend last year didn’t/couldn’t/won’t ever solve.
- What else could you be doing? If you’re committed to doing something with voice, you can also experiment with Google Home or the forthcoming Microsoft Cortana devices backed with Harmon Kardon hardware. Why not take a look at the early stage startups in the Amazon Alexa Accelerator as an alternative to working directly with Amazon? Outside of voice, there are many other areas that brands are only scratching the surface of, such as VR, Big Data, and Machine Learning.
I’m not implying that you shouldn’t be working with Amazon to get your brand onto Alexa, but you should be able to provide a thoughtful answer to all 4 questions before proceeding. As The Bachelor teaches us each and every season, it’s important that you’re there for the right reasons. If not, you’re just throwing money at another shiny object.
Multifunctional Product Design in an Overcrowded, Fast-paced Market
By Zena Schulman
The best products fit seamlessly into a user’s life, while simultaneously elevating their quality of life. How does one design for such an experience? By going beyond the basics (building for user needs and intuitions, utilizing recognizable signifiers, creating a delightful experience, etc).
These products stood out at CES because they were designed to streamline existing consumer devices, thereby fulfilling a need users probably didn’t realize they had, while making existing, successful products far less relevant. Quite genius.
- Sony’s LSPX-S1 Glass Sound Speaker marries a bluetooth speaker with an LED light, in a sleek, minimalist design, so you can create a full ambiance with one device.
- The AirBar turns your MacBook into a touchscreen device, so you no longer need an iPad.
- Smart Remote is compatible with over 25,000 devices, making it easier than ever to fully utilize your connected devices.
With IoT booming, the market, as well as early adopters’ lives, are cluttered with too many connected devices. If you want to stand out and answer to an emerging need, design products for dual (or multiple) functionality.
The Sound and Fury of CES 2017
By Jake Guglin
Watching CES from afar, I noticed a (very positive) growing divide in new technology, signaling the end of “tech as a novelty.”
While there are plenty of trinkets (i.e. crap) hitting the market, there also seems to be an influx of both practical and futuristic products. The former often take inspiration from earlier decades, using technology to improve on a system that already largely works. The latter are challenging our conception of what’s science fiction, and what’s reality. Unfortunately, not everyone is quite getting it right.
- The Good: Willow, wearable breast pump. We’re continually (and rightfully) embracing the empowered mother in America, and this is the next step. All parents deserve leave upon having a child, however “not working” certainly doesn’t mean, well, not working. With Willow, mothers will be able to pump on the run, or just sit back and relax without having to worry about what is a typically involved process.
- The Meh: Connected Toasters... TechCrunch describes one as having “a slider on the app that lets you micromanage how toasty your bread is.” Seriously? We all know the perfect toast depends on the bread you use anyway.
- The Good: Tanvas, surface haptics. Tanvas has purportedly created a technology that allows them to mimic the feel of any number of surfaces on a glass screen. From gaming and children’s education (think the digital version of Fuzzy Puzzles) to home shopping, this seems like it has the potential to completely change the screen-based user interfaces to which we are all glued.
- The Not So Good: Selfie Drones. Does it even count as a selfie anymore if you’re not taking the picture? Motion to change the name to “video-self-portrait” drone. Anyone?