The pace of technological change continues its inexorable march forward, with the pace steadily clicking faster.
After decades of attending CES and riding the ebbs and flows it seems to me that this year finally shows a convergence of many waves of development.
Artificial intelligence, voice recognition, virtual reality and internet of things are converging in ways that portend major changes in the way we will interact 24/7.
From the seemingly arcane (a chess board that allows you to play anyone in the world, or against the best computers) to autonomous cars to the HAL-like ubiquity of Alexa, we are yet again in a brave new world.
Consciously or otherwise, often in slippery slope fashion, we have individually opened the kimono to our personal world in exchange for seeming convenience. We constantly choose to strip away layers of our privacy while companies like Google, Amazon and facebook quietly amass data of almost incalculable value.
It is not doomsday and it is not nirvana, but our world is now populated by refrigerators that track consumption, Fitbit monitors that track movement and endless apps that fill in the gaps.
Voice is quickly becoming the competitive battlefield. Allegedly 700 apps were released during CES for Alexa, from companies as diverse as Ford, Lenovo and Dish TV. With all that voice data being recorded, analyzed, sifted, sliced and diced it makes you wonder about the brave new world…who is really listening to all that data?
And horror stories are merging about the lack of security around the Internet of Things. When folks fail to replace the factory setting passwords on their new IoT toasters, thermostats, light bulbs and baby monitors, hacking becomes child’s play. And for the paranoid conspiracy theorists out there, think about from which countries many of these products emanate. It is probably easy for black hatted engineers to install some efficient hacking firmware.
Speaking of child’s play, about 71% of parents have purchased at least one IoT device, with about 37% of those who have already invested in an IoT device planning on adding another in the next month or two, according to a study by BabyCenter. IoT devices parents have purchased include smart TVs and TV devices, health and fitness trackers, smart children’s toys and gear and smart home devices, the study found.
For me an always fascinating sector at CES is the TV screen. That sector represents one of the most dynamic and expensive bets being placed anywhere. After the false starts of 3D in the home, TVs are rarely the dumb boxes of yesteryear.
My belief remains that the brightest shiniest technologies go nowhere fast without compelling content. The technology highway is littered with great innovations that became roadkill due to the hubris that consumers would overlook a dearth of content.
Myriad television manufacturers are now introducing marvelous machines, and many will be successful because they are integrating the content choices consumers demand. Stated alternatively, easy access to Netflix, Amazon Prime and preferred channels is crucial. And cable companies continue to grapple with consumers getting tired of paying for programming (channels) they don’t watch.
And to wind up the first of several CES reports I will be filing here, I would be remiss in not reiterating the importance of content when it comes to new entertainment technologies. Jonathan Taplin has authored a book (into which we will be diving more deeply in future reports) called Move Fast and Break Things.
Taplin started as a tour manager for Bob Dylan; he then moved into film and concert production (Mean Streets, Concert for Bangladesh, The Last Waltz), and then into academia where he directed the Annenberg Innovation Laboratory at USC. Taplin’s book posits that intellectual property has been usurped by what the author refers to as the new “marketing monoculture” led companies mentioned above (facebook, Amazon and Google). He calculates that $50 billion annually is inexorably moving from those who create the content to the owners of such “monopoly platforms.”
I contemplated this shift and the trends above during my obligatory stop at the amazing massage chairs at CES, which like everything else being demonstrated are getting better and (somewhat) cheaper.
This article was written by Brad Auerbach from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.