5 first impressions from CES 2018

We’re in rainy Las Vegas, reflecting on CES so far

CES 2018 is shaping up to be the biggest on record, with stand out stands from Panasonic and Samsung. Panasonic has focused on behind the scenes ecosystems in connected vehicles and homes, in addition to their core consumer electrical heartland. Meanwhile, Samsung’s tonal simplicity and the clarity, scale and cohesive brand brilliance of their digital screens and storytelling position them as an exciting brand moving forward.
And if you’re at the trade show yourself, the immersive LG OLED experience is one not to miss. The curved OLED tunnel of 4K TVs certainly takes some beating. Alternating between walking through a forest, a waterfall and seeing the finest sunrise this side of Osaka, the experience is simplicity itself and conveys loud and clear why you need an OLED 4k TV in your life.
With so much to see, we’ve put together five broad observations of what is going on across the exhibition, to discern what this will mean for technology this year.
Virtual Assistants are a key trend this year, with various brands aiming to own the connected home. While the prevailing narrative is that virtual assistants will become the brain that gives people convenient control of the tech in the connected home, Google stands slightly apart, presenting the virtual assistant as a transferal of what we’d do on a phone screen. For the shift from smartphone to smart speaker to be a success, using the assistant needs to be as easy as talking to a person. This relies on a huge amount of data that can cover all the likely idiosyncrasies in the way people ask for things. Therefore, the battle for virtual assistant success is about data not hardware.
Representing the maturing and acceptance of platforms created by the tech companies, lifestyle brands are now incorporating them into premium products. 808 speakers use Alexa in premium smart speaker systems, while fashion brands are licensing smart watch tech from Samsung and others. This suggests that voice assistants like Alexa may well become ‘ingredient’ brands like Intel or Android, indicating a slight paradigm shift for the general public as we’ll be more accepting of the platforms in brand experiences.
AR is taking a lead over VR in retail. Whilst this isn’t particularly new tech, the applications are about real and lasting benefit rather than AR mirrors that amuse for five minutes. The brands’ offerings on show suggest a conservative, risk averse retail sector but also the lack of application for isolating VR in what is essentially a social activity – shopping.
VR gaming experiences have taken a step towards maturation and sophistication this year. The tech’s advancement could lead to the growth of VR gaming ‘bars’ other leisure experiences. Why go to a dry ski slope when a machine can let you test yourself against all the best mountains in the world, without having to leave the comfort of Swindon?
The big moments in the retail tech centre focus on gesture and facial recognition, paving the way for a great deal more automation of stores. As well as recognising previous customer and their preferences, the tech can track customer behaviour as well as reading desire. This is reliable, well developed tech that isn’t that new in truth but represents the certainty that risk averse retail needs right now.

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