Why CES 2018 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons

January 23rd, 2018

It seems likely that the 2018 CES, held in Las Vegas, will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. Rather than innovative products or key breakthroughs it is likely to be recalled as the CES where the electronics went down. Yes, for several hours on the Tuesday large areas of the main conference hall were without power meaning that it was impossible for exhibitors to display their products.

To make matters worse the conference might also be remembered as the one in which delegates had to wade through huge very un-Vegas like puddles after 48 hours worth of torrential rain soaked the city. And Vegas is of course in the desert…

And as for the products CES 2018 was what many pundits would say was a transitional show. There were few big announcements, but plenty of emerging tech. And in many instances the products on display were early prototypes which won’t be seen for a few years yet.

Autonomous cars

What excited most delegates was the ubiquity of autonomous, or driverless cars. Pretty much every big manufacturer from Ford through to Mercedes Benz sported prototypes or made announcements.

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Even more excitingly car sharing company Lyft were offering rides in a driverless car up and down the Strip. Needless to say the offer was massively over subscribed.

From a marketing perspective driverless cars represent a huge opportunity. If people aren’t focusing on driving what are they going to do while in the car? If you want a glimpse of what the dashboard of the future might look like this prototype from Harman may offer a few clues

Voice control

Another big trend was the emergence of voice activation and control on many new products. Among those I saw was a voice controlled pair of smart glasses from Vuzix  which will be hugely pricey, but could be a real game changer. Interestingly it was Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant which dominated the show with Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri nowhere to be seen. Though Samsung did unveil a variety of products with its Bixby voice control systems built in such as a TV and a smart refrigerator.

The growth of voice controlled smart speakers poses many interesting questions for marketers. On one level it could mean a recalibration of traditional search with smart speakers only offering limited answers as opposed to the many pages people currently see when searching online. It is also likely to ignite demand for more audio content, and especially  more podcasts.

Robots and VR

You could not travel far in CES without being accosted by a robot or two. To be fair most were not especially useful and at early stages of development, there’s a list here, but the one that seemed to generate the most interest was the revamped version of Sony’s dog the Aibo, which was last seen in 2006.

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If the tail end of 2017 has been all about Augmented Reality, CES 2018 saw Virtual Reality strike back a little with two new high-profile products. The Vive Pro is an upgrade of HTC’s PC VR headset, while the Lenovo Mirage is the first Google Daydream mobile VR device that doesn’t require a phone.

Possibly the most interesting part of the show though was Eureka Park which houses startups from across the globe. Here passionate entrepreneurs pitched their products, spoke optimistically about crowdfunding campaigns and generally injected CES with an energy that was lacking in some of the bigger halls. Among the many products that caught our eye was a revamped version of the drone Zano, 3G connected fitness headphones from Vinci and a smart ring from Orii.

Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA

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