Industry gurus and eager consumers often face a tough task separating breakthrough trends from over-hyped gimmicks amidst the clamor and marketing frenzy that characterizes the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Opinions vary concerning the products, but here are some of the categories that attracted significant interest at the show.
- Virtual reality as a corporate tool. VR is not new, but after more than a few years large corporations like Boeing and Ford are beginning to recognize that virtual reality can deliver in the workplace as well as in the marketplace. Sales and marketing pros are increasingly excited about how VR can give potential customers a taste of new product lines. Experts also anticipate that companies will recognize the value of VR as a low-risk training tool to improve workplace health and safety. It’s been a long time coming, but new software upgrades and improved headset design have positioned VR to expand well beyond its gaming origins. Demos using VR in a business setting attracted major crowds at the show, with attendees eager to don headsets and try out industrial/business apps for themselves.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) can now anticipate needs, and voice recognition goes beyond mere dictation to allow users to access and link all the various applications – such as customer management and email – to service customers while on the move. Experts believe we will see more anticipatory AI programs, such as automobile software that records driving routes and calendar information. They also can scan local traffic information to provide alternate route options to avoid traffic delays without the need for driver input.
- Autonomous driving systems are designed to port airborne delivery drones and large delivery vehicles. It may take a few years for consumers to accept the idea, but transportation experts believe eventually we will see autonomous driving on major freight routes. In the meantime, expect to see more assisted-driving options in automobiles – programs that monitor for signs of driver inattention, issue suggestions for a rest break, and offer dashboard alerts for corrective action if the highway surface becomes slippery or hazardous. Think of these monitoring and driver-assistance programs as a precursor to self-driving vehicles by demonstrating how automation can support safer driving.
- Inherent connectivity. Increasingly, consumers are becoming comfortable with the increased interconnectivity of the Internet. No longer will we rely on our personal interaction with visible hardware to provide the technological support for our work and leisure time. As computers have shrunk in size, we have become used to the idea of computer capabilities being embedded into products ranging from phones to automobiles and appliances – capabilities that allow these products to communicate and respond without our prompting. We can expect to see this embedded computing power to improve efficiencies and make our work and home life smoother and more productive.