There are solid strategies for voice-activated technology; home appliances are becoming ever more digitized; and television is continuing to evolve. These are just some of the many observations offered by former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), hosted in Las Vegas by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Sinofsky, who has been giving his take on the event for years, knows a thing or two about the digital world. He was president of the Windows division at Microsoft from 2009 to 2012 and has worked for the company since 1989. A lot the advances he noted are good news for telcos and digital service providers.
Voice as a strategy
Sinofsky stated that while at last year’s CES event voice felt like a way to make an old demo seem fresh, this year, companies are betting on voice-activated technology as a differentiator.
We reported on Inform a year ago some humorous examples of how the technology was still not wholly refined, such as a six year old placing orders through Amazon Alexa and the trouble even slightly complicated questions bring. Sinofsky even says that “voice really disappoints in the same way that almost every new product disappoints – it doesn’t do as much as you’d like or can imagine.”
And yet, many companies are embedding digital assistants like Alexa or Google’s assistant into a device by adding a microphone, processor, etc. Or, they use Wi-Fi and existing software on devices to allow them to be controlled by one or more controller products, often a speaker.
Will the revolution be televised?
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is going mainstream, according to Sinofsky, while curved TVs and 3D TVs were nowhere to be seen.
Artificial intelligence (AI) was also a buzzword – as it is with many Inform readers – with Sinofsky explaining, “The intelligence is for improving the sound and picture with fancy processing chips, but also for command and control of TV.”
There’s also innovation going on with projectors, flat TV sound and color depth, while 8K content is set to surge. But, as 5G approaches, telcos could cause complete disruption, bringing about the need for new features altogether with 5G TV services. Watch this space.
Home is where the tech is
The competition between Chinese and South Korean companies on the home appliance front has produced some incredible product engineering and manufacturing breadth. There were examples of primary hubs such as the television of refrigerator that can control the rest of the appliances, and of appliances that use less water and electricity, such as mini washer/dryers and small load dishwashers.
Of course, while such inventions are interesting, what could be even more interesting is the data these kinds of appliances collect. Connected appliances will mean vendors will know a lot more about their customers’ likes and dislikes, what they use and when they use it, and as these companies work on becoming more agile internally, they will be able to use this data to produce goods and services that are more suited to their customer, much more quickly.
Shopping around with augmented reality
“Quite a few products want to make creative use of your mobile phone to enhance shopping,” Sinofsky wrote. “One interesting one provides technology to brands to develop 3D images of their products and then lets you quickly see the full product on your phone by scanning a QR code.
“This requires an app so I think there will be some bootstrap challenges but the experience is good within the app. The view is an AR view, not just a product shot.”
Should this use of AR prove successful, it could provide another layer to the omnichannel experience, allowing the customer to visualize the product with more clarity, and therefore have more confidence in what they are buying online. AR product demonstrations can make products easier to understand than perhaps written instructions, and online retailers can even demonstrate customization options with much more ease, with a simple click or two to change the shape, color, size, etc. of what they’re selling.
Mobile – scarce yet plentiful
“CES is not a mobile show and there are never going to be any big announcements about mobile here,” Sinofsky says. He did however make a notable observation:
“The most interesting thing is how mobile has just replaced PCs as the signage and integration point for the whole show. Tablets are the primary interaction on the show floor and touch is by far the primary interaction model.”
Yet more evidence that smart devices are slowly but surely killing off PCs? “At CES you’re not seeing any new or creative uses of PCs,” he adds.
Don’t give up on PCs
But PCs are still alive and kicking, so we shouldn’t write them off just yet. In particular, Dell with its wireless setup and Lenovo with its two-in-one (laptop/tablet) convertibility, were showing off what is new and exciting. “My opinion is that Dell is leading right now in building very solid, work-focused PCs,” Sinofsky says.
Samsung unveiled a flip whiteboard, which is a purpose-built screen that supports ink on the surface, PDF viewing, displaying over miracast or HDMI and exporting screens. This demonstrates how much demand there is in the professional world for greater innovation to make work life easier.
Despite all of these new advancements, Sinofsky saw that robots were still pretty dumb and there has been little innovation in healthcare. But Uber and Lyft made it onto the permanent event signage. Apps rule! (But as with everything…for now).