VIVA LAS VEGAS! This week the OPR team are on the ground in Sin City as Nevada prepares for the onslaught of over 150,000 guests, who over the next four days will make their way around the 2.4 million square foot area containing the latest and greatest technology on the planet.
Before the madness begins, Shawn DuBravac – Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) – held his annual session on the tech trends we can expect to see at the show this year.
Over the past year, the CEA has observed five key trends in the world of technology:
- Ubiquitous computing
- Cheap digital storage
- The proliferation of digital devices
- The ‘sensor’isation of tech
From a productivity perspective, points one through three have all led to a more enabled workforce, however for me (as a self-professed entertainmentphile), points four and five are perhaps the most relevant and exciting.
Think back ten years to a time where almost every household owned a landline phone, CRT television and VHS player, and mobile phones were… well, they were just mobile phones.
Now look at our journey over the following decade. Televisions have gone from dumb devices to smart and connected. Quality of content no longer depends on how many times it has been watched, but appears in crystal clear, 4K Ultra High Definition through the internet or high capacity physical disc. And mobile phones… well, first they were cameras, then MP3 players, then personal assistants and now almost anything you need them to be.
What’s most exciting is that for the most part, Australia has moved with this curve, with consumers flocking from analogue to digital across the board.
These trends have changed the way we engage with the world, with products such as the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect bringing sensors to the forefront and making our experiences far more interactive and immersive.
There is a very real focus in modern day consumer technology on what tech can do for you, and how it can enhance your life. According to DuBravac, the showing at CES 2016 is set to highlight just that – shifting from showcasing technology that is ‘possible’ to technology that is ‘meaningful’. Gone are the days of futuristic robots demonstrating no present day, real-world application and here are the days of wearables improving medical care, sensors facilitating automated driving and virtual reality taking you inside your entertainment.
Having had a sneak peek at the show floor before its official opening tomorrow, the CEA has predicted the following three trends will be prevalent at this years’ show.
- Ambient sensing
- Aggregated learning
- Maturing of nascent ecosystems
But what does this mean for us?
DuBravac highlights that sensors have been used in the industrial, production and defense industries for years, but have only came into their own in consumer technology in the past decade or so (with the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2006). Over this time, sensors in consumer products have become more advanced which in turn has created new functionality, behaviours and use cases for many products.
For example – the first iPhone housed one camera and an accelerometer used solely to shift screen rotation from portrait, to horizontal. Now, the iPhone has two cameras (sparking the rise of the ‘selfie’) and the accelerometer is capable of managing sleep patterns, fitness programs and even enhancing the gaming experience (making it the perfect partner for the health conscious and everyday commuter).
With the price of sensors dropping dramatically (the accelerometer in the first iPhone cost Apple approximately $15 per device vs. less than 50 cents in present day), manufacturers are using more sensors, leading to more data and continuous monitoring and autonomous analysis of said data.
The future of ambient sensors is an exciting prospect for consumers and marketers alike. With the analysis of data comes information. With information comes knowledge. And with knowledge everyday possibilities are endless. Consumers can change the way they live their lives, whilst as marketers we will have a better understanding of how our audiences genuinely feel about our products.
Once again, this demonstrates the shift from ‘cool’ to ‘meaningful’, and this is something that will only improve over time as we learn new and more meaningful ways to analyse the data the sensors provide.
In 2016, data is plentiful. What dictates the success or benefit of a product or service is how well our tech can understand that data to provide a personalised and customisable experience for the customer. Many businesses recognise this and have built their products around this very notion – Netflix, eBay and Amazon to name just three.
Aggregated learning is the process of pulling multiple sources of data into one coherent stream that allows technology to better understand the user or environment.
The Netflix recommendations engine is the perfect example. It uses a plethora of data sourced through viewing behaviour – such as the shows you watch, the actors/directors those shows feature, how long (or short) you watch for and much more – to suggest new content you’ll enjoy. It is predictive customisation at its best – but imagine what would be possible with the addition of ambient sensors – cameras, thermometers, heart rate monitors…
Aggregated learning is an area that has developed exponentially in recent years. Word Error Rate is a term used in development that measures the percentage of words a system is unable to understand as logical instruction. In 1995, the rate was around 100%. In 2015, it is closer to 5%. Without this leap, products such as Microsoft’s Cortana or Apple’s Siri could not exist.
Perhaps the most exciting example of aggregated learning is autonomous vehicles. The CEA point out that since testing began, Google’s driverless cars have driven over 1.6 million kilometers, amassing around 75 years’ worth of driving experience. When one car captures new data (a new sign, road side hazard, weather cue etc.), this data is shared amongst the wider fleet, meaning all cars learn from one car’s experience.
The idea of aggregated learning is incredibly appealing to me for a number of reasons. Putting aside the prospect of Google’s foray into driverless technology potentially bringing us into a world similar to that seen in Tom Cruise’s 2002 futuristic blockbuster Minority Report, we live in a world where choice is plentiful and curation is key. Aggregated learning not only facilitates the roll out of new and groundbreaking technologies such as autonomous vehicles, but it has the very real ability to enable businesses to create fully personalised products for each consumer. If the success of products such as Netflix and eBay is anything to go by, this is no bad thing.
Maturing of nascent ecosystems
For me, this is the most exciting storyline at CES 2016. Whilst drones, 3D printers and wearables all fall into this category, the opportunities this trend creates for the entertainment industry is unprecedented. As I’ve written previously, I believe we are currently in the golden age of entertainment, and the rise of nascent technologies such as virtual reality, 360 degree cameras and 4K UHD displays marks the next step in the creation of an entirely immersive experience.
DuBravac highlighted that last year over 200,000 VR headsets were sold – mostly development kits. This year will see the arrival of Oculus Rift, Sony’s Morpheus and a number of other new entrants into the market. Additionally, 360 degree cameras have hit the shelves, allowing consumers to create their own VR-friendly content. With both Facebook and YouTube supporting the format, this has every potential to be the next big thing in the way we share content.
If we’re lucky, 2016 will be the banner year for virtual reality many are expecting, with the videogame industry spearheading the launch as it spills into other sectors – from film and TV to lifestyle and retail.
All in all, as both a technology fan and entertainment lover, CES 2016 looks to be an incredibly exciting showground of what the future might hold. And who knows, if all goes to plan it might bring us that one step closer the fully-personalised, intelligent and driverless world we are all longing for!