This past week the world of consumer electronics descended onto Las Vegas for CES 2018. I had the opportunity to spend two days walking the show floor, talking with exhibitors, and taking in the best the industry has to offer. Admittedly, there is significantly more at CES than any one person can fully appreciate or cover in a single blog post. Therefore, I am excited to share a couple of my best observations with you regarding innovation and how the trend of voice control dominated this year’s trade show.
Innovation is hard. The show floor is filled to the brim with companies clamoring for attention with the latest new feature or technology. Yet, too many companies seem to have forgotten the most important thing when it comes to innovation – the user must come first. The latest technologies are fascinating, but it’s the companies that take a step further to change how people experience and engage with these technologies that will lead the industry. The products that will gain real traction as they leave the show floor are ones that solve real problems and bring new value.
Pressure to add new features is exacerbated by the reality of technology advances that is not slowing down. Technology that was new and exciting only a few years ago has become the starting point for all new products. One of the clearest examples is voice control and voice interfaces. Most connected products on the show floor had integrations with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or they have their own built-in voice interface. These products ranged from thermostats, fire alarms, watches, sound systems, and showers all the way to robot dogs and toilets.
With this proliferation of devices leveraging voice control devices, the user experience is at risk. It is all too easy for consumers to forget the specific commands or that the voice commands for their devices even exist. Product designers and technology integrators will need to be intentional about how best to leverage voice control technology to produce the best user experience. Hopefully with AI advances we will see significant growth in the adoption of this technology.
From a technology perspective, the dominance of Amazon and Google in home assistants and voice controls is clear. Google has been playing catch up in this area and appears to have made up valuable ground. Google’s amount of sheer marketing power throughout the show and the Las Vegas strip further highlights their commitment to this space. Also of note, another major player, Microsoft’s Cortana, was visibly minimal to non-existent in products for the smart home.
While CES offers a fantastic venue for showcasing the latest technologies, there are still huge opportunities lost by companies who fail to put the user at the center when designing these products. The pressures of competition mean that innovation is not a luxury, it is a requirement for success. However, true innovation does not consist of adding technology for the sake of buzz factors. We must think carefully about user desirability. If we can do this, I am convinced that future CES trade shows will see more companies bringing truly innovative products and services to market.
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