The Future of Technology: 8 Observations from the Consumer Electronics Show
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Main Topic: The Future of Technology
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada is put on in January every year. This year it was from January 8-12 and I went for three days in an effort to see everything.
CES, as its known, is a showcase for new – mostly consumer-facing - technology. Every type of phone, tablet, electronics, drones, and 3D printer and so on are presented to exhibition goers. If you want to see where technology is heading, CES is a great conference to go to.
CES is split up in a number of different venues, including the Sands casino / hotel, and the convention center.. There are major exhibition halls that you can look through, and special meeting rooms that vendors use to for more intimate meetings.
The last time I went to CES was in graduate school. I remembered it pretty well because I actually won a raffle and went home with a brand new SCSI hard drive interface, which I promptly listed on Craigslst and sold it for I think it was $150.
I had not been to CES in more than a decade, so I was due for a visit anyway, and I decided to go Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in a effort to see as much of it as I could.
I was tweeting out some of the interesting and weird things I came across during the show and a listener and friend of the show Elvis suggested a CES episode. So Elvis, thanks and this one is for you.
- LEDs (light emitting diodes) are going in to everything. Anything that could be made to fit some LEDs is getting as many as can be stuck in. Some examples include speaker systems for cars which now glow with LED light. It seemed like even the most basic kitchen devices have LEDs built in to them. So what would I do with that type of information? If I believed it was a sea change, I would search out any public companies that sell LEDs and see if they were bargain priced.
- Every car manufacturer had an autonomous vehicle to show off. These ranged from small two seaters to an autonomous vehicle platform by Honda called E-pallete. E-pallete is basically a large rectangular box on wheels that can be configured into anything, from a small retail store, to a food truck type restaurant. Since E-palette can be used for some many different applications, Honda believes that their solution will allow a significant change in how we shop and eat. Here are what I think the problems are with their idea:
- We already have Amazon to purchase most of what we want.
- We have door dash to bring us food
- We have food trucks and restaurants for food that we want to eat out.
- Now, they did have a logistics configuration and that could be useful…but we have UPS for that already.
- I also wonder where these large vehicles will be parking for the period of time it takes for the one person who is using it to take care of their business.
- Here’s an idea for Honda, how about an E-palette that is configured as a luxury toilet. There are lots of urban locations that don’t have easy to access bathrooms. Let’s fix that problem with a porta-potty version of the E-palette. I would be willing to pay up to $5 to use a nice clean bathroom that comes to ME.
- Lots of solutions to problems that don’t exist. This is a continuing problem in our entrepreneur ranks. Many first time entrepreneurs make the mistake of creating a product that they think is “cool” and other people will like. Unfortunately, that method rarely works. If you are going to be a founder, spent most of your day looking for problems without solutions. THEN build the solution and sell it to the people with the problem.
- More automation for the home, like the $5,000 appliance that folds your clothes for you. As our homes get smarter, companies are trying to find a way to take the drudgery out of chores. There were lots of new vacuum bots that were different takes on the iRobot roving vacuum. Now they are smarter, last longer, and get more cleaning done. Then there is the robot that folds your clothes (very slowly). You dump your clothes into the bottom bin, and this robot picks up each piece, spends a decade identifying what kind of article of clothing it is and then proceeds to fold it ever so slowly, Laundry now takes two days, but you don’t have to fold it yourself. Yay.
- Ladies, this one’s for you. Smart Mirrors – this technology is becoming a fairly major category of consumer electronics. Smart mirrors can show you what your face would look like with different kinds of makeup on I was amused to see a stock, bald middle-aged gentleman looking into a smart mirror and being delighted with the amazing makeup job the smart mirror did. He looked like a geisha from Japan. Anyway, I’m sure it’s helpful to see what you would look like and how the makeup would match your clothes, but I hope the smart mirrors provide instructions for how to put the makeup on, because I’m pretty sure that dude wouldn’t know where to start.
- Robot race car. One exhibitor showed off a formula one style race car with no cockpit. The robotic car drives itself around the track. I was thinking about the implications of that and the what it really boils down to is…we cheer for the driver, not the car. Take the driver out of it and you just have another autonomous vehicle. We like people. We follow and listen to people. If there are no people in your race car, I’m pretty sure you will have problems getting people to watch your race.
- Super thin LED based television screens. I saw a flat screen that was literally a centimeter or two in thickness and was thin enough that you can just unroll it on a wall with special adhesive and not have to mount it to the studs in your wall. That product was made by LG, which makes a large number of different types of electronics.
- Digital microscopes that use your iPhone as the eyepiece. You plug the digital scope into your phone and point it at whatever microscopic wildlife you are trying to see. The company behind this technology is Dino-Lite digital microcopes. They’re super compact, so you can travel with them or easily take them into the field. I don’t have an application for this technology, but can see how they would be imminently useful
So, was it worth the trip to go to CES? Absolutely. This is not a trip I would take every single year, but it’s good to get an idea of how technology is progressing, and a reason to get out of the home office and start touching and feeling products.
I was a little bummed because BMW had a drifting exhibition using their bmw cars with slick tires. You could wait in line and sit in the passenger seat while a professional driver took you drifting around the course for a minute. We got there a little late to take part. Maybe next time.
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