This month Redscout attended CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, to scout the future of the home. The show acts as a fascinating first look at how feats of engineering have been transformed into consumable products for the everyman.
This year’s CES was a reminder that the brands that will win our hearts and our dollars are those that connect new technological capabilities with real human needs and desires. Here are two examples of where technology and humanity successfully intersected at this year's show, and where they missed.
The Chatty Home
By far the most thrilling developments were found in the Connected Home pavilion. This year brands brought a staggering range of household devices online, making a Jetsons-like domestic ideal more in range than ever before. Everything from hair brushes to toilets have been inducted into the Internet of Things.
The most frequently overheard refrain on the trade show floor was: “Does it work with Alexa or Google Home?” Of course the intent of the question is one of compatibility or interoperability, as digital assistant competition heats up and players race to become the dominant standard. But arguably, the more interesting human question for manufacturers is whether and where users really want voice activated assistance, and what implications it may have on the way we experience our own homes. By the looks (and sounds) of this year’s CES floor, a connected home will be a very chatty place indeed, as manufacturers bet we will want to talk to pretty much every device in the household.
While it’s true that the progress made on natural human language processing has made voice an easier way to engage our devices than ever before, all the noise has us wondering: What other input technologies does the future hold? Until IoT Assistants can read brain waves, users will have to use their dollars - and their voices - to educate manufacturers on when talk is welcome and when silence is golden.
The stars of CES have historically been the big three of consumer electronics: TV’s, refrigerators and washing machines. And while the latter two categories were busy asserting their membership in the Connected Home, TV instead made significant progress on its indefatigable march toward becoming paper thin. At 2.57 mm thick, the new fleet of LG TV’s seems to defy the laws of physics. Any thinner and the act of installing these screens will become less like mounting, and more akin to spackling.
In addition to the inches shaved off these screens, what was equally exciting was the sudden leap in aesthetic sophistication the category made through industrial design; the TV suddenly felt like the most elegant and discrete device in the home. Gone is the tech look that usually accompanies entertainment systems (e.g., shiny black plastic frames, visible branding and console tables). Instead, OLED technology was hung elegantly alongside art on gallery walls, propped atop a walnut dresser, or floating on a minimalist easel of brass legs with cords miraculously concealed. The styling of these devices seemed intent on making them look more organic and allowing them to recede into the texture of the home. Suddenly these devices could look as much at home at a Design Within Reach store as they do at a Best Buy.
It was a reminder that technology can earn a place in our home not just by being radically useful, but by making our spaces more beautiful.
Mona Elsayed is strategy director at Redscout and contributed to Redscout's event presence and reporting.