Step aside, George Jetson, and make way for tomorrow … today.
All eyes were on Las Vegas two weeks ago and the 50th annual Consumer Electronics Show with its 184,000 industry techno-wizards, gadget guys, and various and sundry other intelligent nerds and geeks gathered to hock their hi-tech wares and give us all a peek under the tech-tent to see what our short- and long-term futures hold.
More than 4,000 exhibitors (including 800+ start-ups) and 1,200 guest speakers gee-whizzed attendees with the latest-and-greatest in cell phones, televisions, robots, laptops, home appliances, drones, printers, long-charge smart-device batteries, cameras, headphones, earbuds, and even a voice-activated cat litter box.
I kid you not.
In a cruel twist of irony, the show experienced an hour-long, electrical blackout triggered by an unexpectedly heavy rain that caused a “flashover” of a generator. Nevertheless, CES did what it has done for a half-century: Be the grand showcase for all things new and techy. Consider the following:
- LG literally rolled out an ultra-high-definition display surface (a TV, in layman’s terms) that rolls up like a yoga mat when you’re not watching. Before long, the big black screen of a television over the mantel that’s turned off will be a gauche thing of the past.
- Attendance by robots was particularly strong this year. Avatar Mind unveiled iPal, a robot intended to serve as a reassuring companion for lonely or timid young children, and for the elderly, reminding them to take meds at proper intervals, eat meals at appropriate times, bathe, etc. Meanwhile Sony launched Aibo, a robotic dog that mimics a real-life Fido without the need for pee pads. Nimbo introduced a robot that patrols pre-programmed zones like a digital night watchman for your home or business. There was even an automatic laundry-folding robot named Laundroid, presented by Seven Dreamers and powered by artificial intelligence (AI) … if you happen to have an extra 16 grand on-hand.
- Google and Amazon continued to slug it out for domination in product categories driven by AI — Big Data analytics, speech recognition, predictive technology, etc. – with the introduction of voice-activated showers, makeup mirrors, coffee-makers, vacuums, ovens, etc.
- Samsung has developed a “smart refrigerator” with an internal, built-in camera so, if you’re in the dairy section at Publix, and can’t remember whether or not you need butter, simply activate the in-fridge camera with an app on your cell phone and see for yourself.
- For fitness fanatics, Peloton revealed its second-ever product that’s been under wraps and code-named “Aurora” for 18 months prior to CES. Peloton Tread is a pricey ($4,000), futuristic, at-home treadmill that will stream interval fitness classes and, the company hopes, streamline the number of conventional gyms currently operating across America.
- Several manufacturers demonstrated tiny chips that will be embedded into walls and furniture and respond to voice commands for brighter lights, lower volume, reclining positions, heat/cool levels, comfort firmness, etc.
- Eastman Kodak rolled out a device that facilitates crypto-currency transactions (Alt-Coin, Bit Coin, etc.). Don’t ask me to explain how this works but those in the know responded positively as Kodak stock soared an incredible 120% overnight!
- And if that’s not enough cool-and-new for you, be the first to pull on a pair of Skiin underwear (for men and women) by Myant that monitors vital signs like heart rate, respirations, body temp, hydration, body fat, motion and posture, and charges wirelessly. Again, I kid you not!
Technology evolves and advances at an astounding rate. Yesterday’s breakthrough is tomorrow’s obsolescence, it seems. One thing for sure is technology is with us and it’s impacting all our lives in many, many ways. And will continue to do so ad infinitum.
Many CES attendees joked that this year’s show may well as have been an auto show in Detroit, New York or Los Angeles for all the vehicle-based technology that was unveiled; things like a parking assistant that knows where empty spaces can be found near your intended destination, a rear-view mirror featuring retina scan in case you lose your keys and still need to start your vehicle, self-driving/autonomous cars, even an in-dash Alexa from Amazon.
Speaking of Alexa …
Fun-loving convention-goers walking the floor of the exhibit halls could be heard yelling out “Alexa!” then looking around to see multiple gadgets activating in various booths.
Many of the products unveiled will make their way to market while many others won’t pass muster. Time will tell but there’s no shortage of imagination, innovations and dreams when CES rolls into town each year.
Sometimes, dreamers and innovators have to give it their best shot then take a fingers-crossed leap. Crossing that “100% confident” threshold before you take that leap is virtually impossible. At some point, manufacturers must follow their intuition and trust the knowledge they’ve gained, to-date. If a new piece of technology works, makes sense, and is affordable, good on them! If it doesn’t pan out, what have they learned and how can that learning be applied next time? That’s yet another of the great opportunities CES delivers.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban, after losing last year’s National Championship to Clemson on the final play of the game, told his team in the post-game locker-room, “Never waste a failure”. That became the Crimson Tide’s mantra throughout the recently completed football season which culminated in a thrilling, 26-23 comeback win over Georgia in overtime for ‘Bama’s 17th national title.
That’s how you apply knowledge gained by trial and error.
Our society is continually gravitating towards technology-driven offerings that create higher and higher levels of convenience. For those of us who host and produce corporate meetings and events, it’s a reminder to stay in tune to emerging technology that will make the lives of our attendees and participants a little easier.
Keeping abreast of the latest and greatest gadgets and tools unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show each year is not only fun and fascinating, it can also help you, as a host or planner of corporate meetings and events, stay ahead of the curve (and maybe even make your life a little easier).
Oh, by the way … that George Jetsons underwear comes in a variety of colors and styles.