The technological innovations featured at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) reflect cutting-edge trends that are about to sweep the market. The 2017 show was the year of artificial intelligence (AI), forecasting massive changes that are occurring within the consumer and B2B markets.
Recent technology advancements mean that no industry is going to remain untouched by AI's widespread disruption of the economy — not even Wall Street.
Corporations that recognize and adapt to these changes have the potential to keep pace with the market rather than fall behind their more forward-thinking competitors. With that in mind, here are three AI trends from CES 2017 to give you extra insight for the year ahead.
Robots Rule the Internet of Things
Machine learning is making its way into both the smallest gadgets and the biggest household appliances. From toothbrushes to refrigerators, the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to signal a move away from conventional products toward “smart" technologies.
Nowhere is this clearer than in AI-powered home robots. Diverse in form and function, these robots integrate with intelligent platforms to assist people in a myriad of ways. Two of the most well-received robots — the humanoid Lynx and LG's Hub Robot — work with Amazon's Alexa voice-service. In particular, LG's technology represented forward movement in the industry; unlike Amazon's own Dot and Echo devices, the Hub Robot distinguishes between humans, meaning that multiple users can use the device without having to switch between profiles.
Both startups and industry leaders are tailoring AI robots to their organizational mission, with specific products that serve a niche consumer base. For example, Yumii with Cutii helps the elderly maintain independence by assisting with daily tasks. And Mattel's Aristotle caters to families and is specifically designed to understand children's voices (which requires different recognition patterns). Fast Company goes as far to describe Aristotle as a “nanny, friend and tutor, intended to both soothe a newborn and help a tween with their foreign language homework. It's an AI to help raise your child."
Other companies can benefit from AI by following Mattel's lead in adopting these emerging technologies for their specific brand and audience. Although all of these examples function primarily in a home setting, the adaptability of robotics AI makes this trend just as relevant in B2B spheres.
Innovators Compete to Control AI Interfaces for Virtual Digital Assistants
As impressive as robots and smart products are, they wouldn't be possible without the AI platforms or interfaces that enable their technology. At CES, it was clear that companies are recognizing the invaluable importance of being the dominant AI interface for virtual digital assistants, rather than simply producing products that leverage an AI platform.
Here's why: researchers suggest that the number of virtual digital assistant users leveraging AI will skyrocket, growing to 1.8 billion by the end of 2021. For enterprise users, that number is expected to hit 843 million users by the same date. The company that develops the most valued digital assistant technology will be able to cultivate the biggest network of products.
As John Lilly of Greylock Partners summed it up for Bloomberg, "There are lots and lots of ways you can monetize when you control the interface. You control information flow. You can route requests. You can certainly ship people stuff."
In a mad dash to catch up with Amazon's Alexa, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung have created their own digital assistants that work across products. These tech giants are scrambling to develop the best software — and to partner with companies to gain the edge in the market. Although every tech giant revealed impressive collaborations at CES, Amazon's Alexa clearly has the edge with over 7,000 partnerships. It's latest venture — a new deal with Ford — will integrate Alexa's platform into select vehicles.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Dominate
Organizations developing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) products continue to disrupt B2B and B2C markets by balancing cutting-edge technology with practicality for users and affordable price points.
Intel dedicated most of its resources to 250 VR stations, staffed by team members to provide an optimal experience. HTC went a step further by sharing its plan to create virtual reality arcades, the first of which they plan to open in Taiwan. In these up-and-coming gaming centers, HTC will build on the same technology from the 360-cameras they debuted at CES.
AR technology also saw major strides. Osterhout Design Group (ODG) revealed their R-8 and R-9 smartglasses, which run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor. They were a major breakthrough because of the style, weight, and performance of the glasses — all at a $1,000 price point. Unlike past smartglasses, they strike the balance between outstanding technology and usability for the customer.
But not all AR was focused on visual innovation, as some companies revealed innovations dedicated to hearing. Startup Audicus is poised to transform the hearing-aid market, and Stages enables users to hear from a specific direction.
Companies pursuing innovative technologies need to strike a balance: invest in R&D that pushes the limits of conventional science while creating technologies that are still relevant to their consumer base. By cultivating this two-pronged approach, corporations ensure their long-term viability as both ground-breaking organizations and a profitable businesses.
As AI works its way into every industry through machine learning and rapid innovation, business leaders have become even more aware of the benefits and risks of developing these technologies.
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