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Visiting the biggest electronic gadget festival in the world, CES in Las Vegas

29. januar 2016
Child robot

iPal, your child’s best (?) friend, presented at CES Las Vegas.

Guest Post by Special Adviser Donnie Lygonis, Nordic Innovation House

So – I finally got to go to Las Vegas and the biggest electronic gadget festival in the world, CES, and it was a most exhausting combination, I must say :-) But a whole lot of fun, and a brief glimpse of things to come.

170 000 visitors says it all. That’s a lot of people. Add long distances between the three big expos, multiple parallel networking events, mixers, cocktails and parties every day, evening and night and you are in for a week of planning, transportation, a lot of new faces and way too few hours of sleep. But hey, it’s only once per year right?

I have tried to summarize my findings and thoughts below, a lot of words but I hope you’ll join me through my ramblings.

My one take-away was that CES2016 was all about evolution, not revolution. There was more of everything, but there wasn’t anything really groundbreaking. No jaw-dropping new technologies or unveiling of something incredibly supersecret. The biggest news item seemed to be the one from Netflix CEO during his keynote, who ended by saying that during his talk they had released in 130 new markets, which is a big thing I guess.

Anyway, having that said, here goes, my list of CES2016 findings and reflections

1.Internet of Things – no, not, really. 

One of the better wearable fitness trackers according to some – Hexoskin

One of the better wearable fitness trackers according to some – Hexoskin

IoT was the talk of the town, everyone wants a part of it, and I suppose per definition any device with a bluetooth or wifi connection is a part of the ”internet of things”, so yes, everyone is or will be a part of it.

The connected home was a big thing, moving from Nest and smart alarms that you can turn off and on with your app (so 2014) to connected refrigerators that know the expiry date of the milk and will order more by itself.

On a fun side note – LG chose the opposite to Samsung. Samsung had a fridge with a huge screen that basically was a triple tablet and lots of cameras inside the refrigerator to see the food. LG had made their front door out of glass so it was transparent… who needs cameras when you can see the food? :-)

The connected home was also about security, tons of security for the baby and the kids, and grandparents of course. Now you can track your babys heartbeat with your app, measure its sleep and temperature in real time, you can also see which medicines your grandmother just didn’t take or if any other sensor-equipped senior citizen just fell over. All good, as long as the technology is human-centric and actually enables us to focus on the human being amidst it all.

Badehette

Everything wearable is a sensor, everything wearable is connected. Photos by Donnie Lygonis.

But the thing with all these connected things is that fine, they might be able to connect to their app, but they aren’t really connected yet. Without any real accepted global standard on the market, all the big names are just building bigger and bigger vertical silos with their own technology on their own platforms. It’s more an internet of silos, ”IoS”. Add to that all the 100s of companies that make gadgets and machines that are ”connected”, all with their own apps and their own interfaces, just adds to the confusion and frustration for us, the end users.

I am eagerly waiting to see what Apple, Google and some of the other big names like Qualcomm have up their sleeves, I don’t think we’ll see a breakthrough in 2016 but soon someone will win the race, and the others will lose, or join the winner, just like all the other tech platform races through the years.  (VCR beat Betamax / HDDVD lost to Blue-Ray). Maybe 2017 will give us one app to rule them all, or then again the way things are heading, why not a ring, after all?

2. Wearables, oh yes!

One of the better wearable fitness trackers according to some – Hexoskin

One of the better wearable fitness trackers according to some – Hexoskin

I was expecting a lot of wearable tech, but I had not expected THAT much wearable tech. Everything you can possibly imagine wearing (or even…eh…. inserting…I guess they should be called insertables?) was there, but here as a connected, tracking, measuring version.

Quantified Self might not be the buzz word anymore, but that’s what it’s all about. Measure everything about yourself, doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to do with the data yet, measure it and someone will figure it out.

There were so many run-of-the-mill fitness trackers on show that I lost count, but nothing was really new. They still measure the same thing. The algorithms are a bit smarter, the wristbands are a bit spiffier but still same same.

One thing though that is definitely starting to come out now is jewelry and accessories, not everyone wants to wear a black rubber wristband, so how to measure pulse and steps if you don’t want to sacrifice your looks?

Let me suggest a Swarovski jewelry fitness tracker with the tag line ”Get Fit In Style”, or the Misfit Ray that was one of the more noticed wearable this year.

Some of the more fun ones were the belts, like the Samsung WELT, that measures ”belt tension” and tells you if you have overeaten, or the Spün – the connected fork that measures calories while you eat.

The traditional watch makers were out in force as well; Tag Heuer, Fossil, Kronos – they all had really nice watches that double as fitness trackers, or life trackers as they all are calling themselves now.

And of course all of the old brands where there, Casio (we’ve been making smart watches for 20 years), Polar (we’ve making pulse trackers for 30 years) and a couple more big old ‘uns.

3. Connected Health

The Samsung Wifi belt the Welt

The Samsung Wifi belt the Welt

With all the sensors and wearables comes the possibility to measure so much more than only steps and pulse; connected health was a big thing, and some very big names are putting a lot of effort into that arena. As mentioned above, real time thermometers, hydration trackers, blood sugar meters, pocket ECG etc.

One big thing was Sleep Tech / Relax Tech; connected beds, alarm clocks, massage chairs etc, all with their own software (there’s an app for that…) that helps you relax, sleep and come down off the tech high you’re riding with all the connected gadgets.

But for sure, the line between e-fitness and e-health is slowly dissolving and I think it will soon all be about health. But I like that. I like the phrase ”Putting care back into healthcare” which is one of the mantras of the Health 2.0 movement, empowering the patient and giving them control of all their data. Today’s healthcare needs to relate to the fact that the patients will be coming in to the doctor with so much more data about themselves than the doctor or nurse has, which will change healthcare as well. ”Doctor, the patient will see you now” as one guy put it. A total shift coming up.

 4. VR / AR – where? here?

The Welt belt measures belt tension and shows if you have overeaten

The Welt belt measures belt tension and shows if you have overeaten

A lot of talk before CES was about VR, this was the year they were going to push the boundaries and show the world what was all really about. For me it was more of a ”meh…” experience. In other words, not so much.

Ok sure, Samsung and HTC and Oculus and the others all had huge exhibits with VR headsets and somewhat compelling environments, but VR still isn’t there yet, and the headsets are still very expensive. But I could actually place a bet on VR headsets being the Christmas present of the year 2017 (maybe even 2016, but nah, don’t think it will be there yet), with so many manufacturers churning them out now, it’s just a matter of time until they become a cheaper commodity which will lead to more sales and also more focus on content and actual useful applications.

Maybe one day someone will figure out what to use VR for as well (apart from porn,  of course, which seems to be one of the driving forces.)
AR on the other hand, that’s going places, I can really see some good business cases for AR tech the coming years.

5. GPS Trackers, finally small enough

I actually lost track (ha ha) of all the companies selling small gps trackers that enables you to find your kids, your pets, your bags, bikes or whatever you always lose. The slightly comical twist was that they all had the same series of images 1. a crying child, 2. a worried parent 3. a happy reunited family :-)

The pet trackers have gone from being pet trackers to also being pet cams, imagine GoPro for your dog or cat, which could be fun as long as you edit out all the times the dogs go about sniffing other dogs behinds or the cats playing around with a half dead mouse, yuck…

6. Hardware startups

The This fork measures calories while you eat

The Spün measures calories while you eat

OK, so I know CES is a hardware oriented show, but with the maker revolution the past two-three years, enabling anyone to make their own hardware, the show was packed with young entrepreneurs from all over the world with some kind of gadget.

Swedish KTH startup Flic was there and made a big splash, keep an eye on those guys the years to come, they are going places.

And a lot of 3D printers, a lot. Even old Polaroid has joined in this game, they had a big release of their 3D printer with the tag line ”How Polaroid are you?”.

7. Robotics, mm….no. still trying, still close, but still no cigar.

Quite a few robot dogs, household robot helpers, children’s robot companions, and even a robot with a built in projector (help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope). But the one thing that united them all was A. They all seem to use the same industrial designer, seriously – WHY do all robot dogs look identical? and B. no one seems to have spent more than 2 minutes on the actual software and interaction layer.

They all have really squeaky, screechy tin voices, that would probably scare the living daylights out of the poor child or elderly person they are trying to help. Samer and Preben from Furhat Robotics – we need you guys here!

The Octo ring that you can use as a microphone and talk into

The Octo ring that you can use as a microphone and talk into

8. Headphones. Swedish headphones. And speakers. 

As one guy put it: ”Dude, what’s with all these Swedish companies and headphones? there are like 20 of them, and their all making a fortune”.

Well, yes, he is right. We have Zound Industries (UrbanEars, Marshall, Coloud, Molami), Happy Plugs, Sudio, Defunc, Urbanista and a few more as well. Quite a few brands, all very sleekly designed and brought to market. They have a good eye those Swedes.

But the Swedes are not alone. Everyone seems to be making headphones. And one more thing – everyone who has started making headphones, have now started making loudspeakers. For every headphone exhibitor we visited, they’d show us their brand new loudspeaker, or their plans for a brand new loudspeaker. Safe bet – we’ll see a lot of new portable and semi-portable loudspeakers this coming year. Stackable ones from Aifi, and a lot of designed and ”making your room look better” speakers.

Oh, and everything is becoming wireless btw, did I mention that? No wires to either headphones or speakers.

9. Cars. Yes, cars. 

For a tech gadget show, it was interesting to see almost 15 car manufacturers there, showing off their connected cars, their self driving cars and their electric cars. Chevrolet even chose CES to launch their all new Bolt, a fully electric car with an impressive reach, 200 miles they say, 320 km.

The car part also had one of the biggest disappointments for me, everyone had been boosting this tech-vision-incredible-Tesla-killer-super car. So of course I had to go look at the Faraday Future Concept Car. And wow, they had built a…. Batmobile. So not impressed. If they have spent so much money on the tech and the inside details, couldn’t they have spent a bit more on design?

One of the better names of the show – Smarty Pans, connected frying pans

One of the better names of the show – Smarty Pans, connected frying pans

10. Drones. One big one.

Ok so there were a lot of drones, including Polaroid again, with their new consumer drone. But nothing really impressing. Except maybe the one from the Chinese manufacturer Ehang that is called 184, no more no less. Maybe not such a catchy name but still, after all it is a drone that is capable of carrying a person.

My only objection here is that if you are riding it, wouldn’t it be a helicopter? a self-flying helicopter?

11. And finally, all the other hardware

So yes, there was a lot of hardware. Like TV screens. Transparent, window thin, 4k TV screens, beautiful stuff, and you can just imagine the store windows of the future, or your own house for that matter, when every glass surface can become a screen.

Or like the gun lock where the trigger reads your finger print before it can fire. Or the electric connected skateboard (that has it’s own app of course), or the, or the, or the… The list goes on. A lot of hardware.

A nicer fitness tracker, one of Fossils new watches

A nicer fitness tracker, one of Fossils new watches

Finishing off, just a couple of reflections.

Connected not. First of all, for being the biggest electronics show of the year, and with everything being connected, communicating with wifi and bluetooth, and with the big names in networks like Ericsson, Qualcomm, Nokia, Huawei and more in place, it’s kind of striking that it was near impossible to get connected on wifi. Slow or not present networks all over.

Makes you feel that everything you’ve just experienced, seen and now want, just isn’t for real, that it’s all make believe. But it’s like the early days of mobile I guess, when we had all of these great ideas and lots of great services, but no networks or infrastructures to carry them.

The big angst trip. With so many of the wearable companies showing off the best way of getting fit, feeling better, sleeping better and even exercising your privates (yes, indeed, and connected too) and all the gps trackers playing on our fears of losing our children or pets or things, the play on the consumers fears and feeling of inadequacy really shone through. So prepare to be weighed, measured and be found wanting. (spot the movie!).

Swarovski fitness jewelry

Swarovski fitness jewelry

The death of the old trusted car brands. Someone asked ”which of the current big car brands stand a chance in the future?” and even though I don’t know the answer, and even though Tesla only has a ~1% market share in the US, it feels a bit like a year after Apple released the iPhone. They had only 5% market share, but they had managed to get 75% market attention.

Everyone was talking about iPhone, as if everyone already had one. I see similarities here, but sure, Tesla faces a lot more issues with distribution, prices, affordability etc so it’s not a fully working analogy, but still, it’s an interesting reflection yes? So which of the big dominants will be the future Nokias, Motorolas and Sony / Ericssons?

So, with that, I will say thank you for this year, feel free to comment or continue the discussion,

Some more pictures

Here are some more pictures that will give you an idea of the creativity / craziness going on at the CES!  PS. Thank you Tomas Bennich for modeling :-)

 

Get fit in style

Measure hydration levels while working out

Measure hydration levels while working out

One of the most talked about fitness trackers, the Misfit Ray, a beautiful piece indeed

One of the most talked about fitness trackers, the Misfit Ray, a beautiful piece indeed

How about this for a wearable? Blocks, the watch that can be anything you want, just add or change links and you add/change functionality.

How about this for a wearable? Blocks, the watch that can be anything you want, just add or change links and you add/change functionality.

Casio "we have been making smart watches for 20 years" with their new outdoor watch.

Casio ”we have been making smart watches for 20 years” with their new outdoor watch.

TomTom, the car gps brand, not giving up without a fight, here with smart watches and other gadgets

TomTom, the car gps brand, not giving up without a fight, here with smart watches and other gadgets

Polar "We were here first!" display. If that helps them stay in the business, only time will tell

Polar ”We were here first!” display. If that helps them stay in the business, only time will tell

Or just put everything in your earphones? Kuai, boasting "the worlds first biometric earphones" include fitness tracker, mp3 player, voice coach, speedometer and 8Gb of memory

Or just put everything in your earphones? Kuai, boasting ”the worlds first biometric earphones” include fitness tracker, mp3 player, voice coach, speedometer and 8Gb of memory

Then of course there's the connected water bottle from Life Fuels that not only keeps track of how much you have had, but also of what kind. Comes with six refillable slots for vitamins, supplements and tastes.

Then of course there’s the connected water bottle from Life Fuels that not only keeps track of how much you have had, but also of what kind. Comes with six refillable slots for vitamins, supplements and tastes.

The connected insole from Digitsole not only tracks your day but it warms your feet as well, all through the app of course.

The connected insole from Digitsole not only tracks your day but it warms your feet as well, all through the app of course.

And if the sole isn't enough, Digitsole has a whole collections of sneakers, mens shoes and even pumps with built in intelligence!

And if the sole isn’t enough, Digitsole has a whole collections of sneakers, mens shoes and even pumps with built in intelligence!

More connected shoes!

More connected shoes!

Perfect foot exercise for all desk jockeys :-)

Perfect foot exercise for all desk jockeys 🙂

 

Meet Sculpt, the most exakt body composition tracker today, measure up to 12 places on your body to get exact numbers.

DSC_0175

DSC_0174

Meet Sculpt, the most exakt body composition tracker today, measure up to 12 places on your body to get exact numbers.

Meet Sculpt, the most exakt body composition tracker to date according to them. Measure up to 12 places on your body to get exact numbers.

DSC_0203

Measure the whole family's body temperature in real-time in one app.

Measure the whole family’s body temperature in real-time in one app.

Never worry about your baby again, all you could ever need in the connected nursery

Never worry about your baby again, all you could ever need in the connected nursery

DSC_0237

Make sure the kids in the back seat are safe with this connected child seat

Make sure the kids in the back seat are safe with this connected child seat

For the more specialized, the Vert measures jump height, velocity and your total G force in all your jumps

For the more specialized, the Vert measures jump height, velocity and your total G force in all your jumps

Never lose a child in Disneyland again! ChildAngel, one of very many childrens gps trackers

Never lose a child in Disneyland again! ChildAngel, one of very many childrens gps trackers

DSC_0280

Never lose a pet again, or keep track of it to see what it does during the day.

Never lose a pet again, or keep track of it to see what it does during the day.

See what your pet sees, might be fun, or not...

See what your pet sees, might be fun, or not…

Robots!

DSC_0212

Not all robots are made the same, some are... not as stylish as others...

Not all robots are made the same, some are… not as stylish as others…

Squeaky, tin voiced, tiny talking rolling items

Squeaky, tin voiced, tiny talking rolling items

Projector-bot, the origin of R2D2?

Projector-bot, the origin of R2D2?

And of course a robot dog, there's always a robot dog!

And of course a robot dog, there’s always a robot dog!

 

Turn your kid into a robot :-)

Turn your kid into a robot 🙂

And the cute ones of course

And the cute ones of course

DSC_0346

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And for all the lazy BBQ aficionados – the grill bot that cleans your grill automatically

The robot bartender, that mixes your drinks and can share your favorite recepies on Facebook

The robot bartender, that mixes your drinks and can share your favorite recepies on Facebook

VR

VR was big this year, here Samsungs VR demo theater

VR was big this year, here Samsungs VR demo theater

We had to try everything ourselves of course!

We had to try everything ourselves of course!

Cars

A lot of cars, here Chevrolet Bolt, their new all-electric car

A lot of cars, here Chevrolet Bolt, their new all-electric car

Ford showing what their self-driving car "sees" around it as it generates a image of it's surroundings

Ford showing what their self-driving car ”sees” around it as it generates a image of it’s surroundings

DSC_0137

DSC_0140

And the "Batmobile" from Faraday Future.

And the ”Batmobile” from Faraday Future.

Swedish earphones

Swedish earphones from Happy Plugs

Swedish earphones from Happy Plugs

More Swedish earphones, this time from Sudio

More Swedish earphones, this time from Sudio

On the loudspeaker front, The House of Marley (Bobs heritage) make some of the nicer loudspeakers, all in a laid back jamaican reggae style

On the loudspeaker front, The House of Marley (Bobs heritage) make some of the nicer loudspeakers, all in a laid back jamaican reggae style

A couple of good ol’ brands

polaroid-booth-2016-ces-be-original

polaroid-2016-3d-printer

CYJwV8xWQAAdkO2

PolaroidSnap_021-1024x768

LEGO Education 2.0 – taking it to the next level

a45300_ClassroomSolution_01.0

And then some of the other fun stuff:

The drone that can carry you, or the self-flying helicopter as I would call it

The drone that can carry you, or the self-flying helicopter as I would call it

Levitation was also a common theme, levitating loudspeakers as well as this levitating light bulb. all really necessary stuff for the modern household.

Levitation was also a common theme, levitating loudspeakers as well as this levitating light bulb. all really necessary stuff for the modern household.

SingTrix, one of the more fun things, don't think I laughed so hard anywhere else, so many fun voice effects, apart from the auto-tune function that makes anyone sing well. Pro tools for the people!

SingTrix, one of the more fun things, don’t think I laughed so hard anywhere else, so many fun voice effects, apart from the auto-tune function that makes anyone sing well. Pro tools for the people!

The connected & electric skateboard, with it's own app of course

The connected & electric skateboard InBoard, comes with it’s own app of course

DSC_0242

Whirlpool Swash, the 10 minute dry cleaner

Whirlpool Swash, the 10 minute dry cleaner

Insertables? for exercising and tracking your private parts

Insertables? for exercising and tracking your private parts

Portable heads-up display for any smartphone.

The Hudway – a portable heads-up display for any smartphone.

Measure everything you eat down to molecular composition with Dietsensor

Measure everything you eat down to molecular composition with Dietsensor

Finally! :-) We have been waiting for this one for years! The one card to replace all other cards

Finally! :-) We have been waiting for this one for years! The one card to replace all other cards. Just scan (skim) all your cards and this one will be able to take their place, chip cards coming soon too. Finally criminal skimming put to good use 😉

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Modular smartphone, add, remove, update functionality as you want.

Modular smartphone, add, remove, update functionality as you want.

Donnie Lygonis, photo: Vinnova

Donnie Lygonis, Photo: Vinnova

Donnie SC Lygonis is a Senior Advisor over at Nordic Innovation House in Palo Alto and Nordic colleague of the Innovation Norway team over there. He is also known for his work over at  KTH Innovation. 

This blog post was originally published on Donnie’s blog over at the KTH Innovation web site. Republished with permission.

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