Zehnder Communications, Inc.

On the Cutting Edge at CES 2019, Part I

At Zehnder, we pride ourselves on being at the intersection of technology and marketing – we’re invested in parsing the technological wheat from the chaff and using it to make your brand better.

Obviously, we had to send our Creative Technologist, Rob Hudak, to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to see what’s generating the most buzz from the 4,500 exhibitors, 250 conferences and over 180,000 attendees this year.

First-day talk, online, has been dominated by discussion of the future of transportation – primarily electric and autonomous vehicles from Mercedes, Harley Davidson and Nissan.

But the biggest-buzz items don’t necessarily correspond to what matters most for our clients. Rob brought decades of client-focused insight to his explorations, and here’s his perspective on all he saw on the first day of CES.

CES 1969
CES 2019

Innovation builds on our very long history of science, technology and observation. Without the longitude compass, there would be no Google Maps. Without Google Maps, there would be no autonomous vehicles.

CES has been around for more than 50 years and a lot of progress has been made in that time. Last year we were talking about autonomous vehicles. This year we are talking about what type of entertainment we might have in those vehicles. As you walk around CES you see technologies present since its 1967 inception enhanced with cutting-edge technology so new it’s not yet finished. The building-blocks of innovation, right there in plain sight.

It’s all very inspiring. But right now, there’s a woman behind me shouting clearly “Hey Vector, play with your cube!” She’s talking to a pet robot about the size of a large frog. He has a little cube that he plays with. His name is Vector, he can also tell you the time and the weather, and oh yeah - he can also recognize your voice and face. He seems alive and I want to take him home as a pet.

Vector is part of a smart home environment on display here at CES that showcases the underlying technology of facial and voice recognition, cloud connectivity, and AI. The same chip used in this pet robot is used in a new smart home air conditioner that also recognizes your face and will even point the airflow in your direction (or away from you, if that is your preference). It recognizes you, personally, moving around the room. Meaning, if you like the air directly on you but your living partner does not - the AI will remember that.

Microwave and Dishwasher with Artificial Intelligence

The designs look homey - the smart air conditioner looks like an old furnace - but it shines with a newness that is unexplainable, until you have someone explain to you that it basically has a brain. There is also a small dishwasher and microwave using the chip that Vector the robot and the air conditioner share. You get the sense that as with anything designed for the home and personal leisure, there is always room to innovate.

Around the corner from the smart home, people are using their facial expressions to move wheelchairs. Winking to turn left or sticking their tongue out to go backwards.

Facial recognition is a hot item at CES this year. Not only is it being used to drive a wheelchair - it’s also being used to track emotions. When coupled with biometrics that track things such as heart rate and brain activity, these technologies can be used powerfully in industries all the way from Healthcare to Entertainment. I can see in the future a Virtual Reality horror movie that uses the data of your emotional state to either scare you more or take it easier on you, depending on your preference, of course.

In the panel Beyond Gaming: XR Gets Down to Business the topic explored was XR, or Extended Reality - a combination of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. They are training teams of surgeons now using XR experiences and getting great results. By adding bio-metrics that can measure stress levels through brain function, heart rate and perspiration you can create powerful virtual training experiences. Even more interesting is the progress being made in the field of psychology, using XR with biometrics to replace therapy and therapeutic drugs.  

There’s lot of movement at CES - from walking in a virtual world, to walking in a perfectly real 3D printed shoe. Innovation Lab ECCO has teamed 3D artists and engineers to create QUANT-U, capturing data from your movement and the unique qualities of your foot to create the perfect 3D shoe to be printed for you right on the spot.

Other movement at CES involved dancing in front of a poster for Grease at the Intel booth , as it moved and danced with you. Using a real-time motion tracking system, it made for a fun interactive experience- the view of the camera turning with your movements. Another demo showed the same dancers inside of a 3-dimensional frameless picture that appears on the wall like a moving hologram. It’s controlled with a single piece of hardware that allows you to change the 360º view or tap to change the image to a new dancer.

Dancing to an immersive poster for "Grease"

Unlike motion tracking in entertainment, motion tracking in the auto industry can mean the difference between life and death. This year cars go beyond tracking each other to tracking pedestrians and being aware of the environment they are in. Be on the lookout for more safety features that alert you when you are in a school zone or a pedestrian is in your blind spot. And as these features are improved to perfection, expect a ride filled with new entertainment experiences.

Pioneer showcased their 3D LiDAR sensors using automobile and security use cases.

Big Takeaway from Day 1: Personalization. There’s a game design theory that “the more data and input you give, the more the technology will reward you.” AI will learn your habits, your face, your age and your shoe size. Your data will be everywhere. And everything from your toaster to your television will give you a more personalized experience. It’s a future perfect for Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, where everything is just right.

Stay tuned for our next installment of what's happening at CES 2019.

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