CES 2018 : Key Takeaways

I visited the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year at Las Vegas, Nevada. Being a first-timer at CES, I went in expecting four crazy, jam-packed days.

CES is the largest technology show in the world, and this year’s was the biggest in its 51-year history, with close to 4,000 exhibitors covering more than 2.75 million square feet across Las Vegas. This is the tech event of the year, where the latest technology companies showcase their vision for the future — everything from smart cars to robotics to the newest thing in televisions and everybody from young startups to tech giants.

CES certainly brings out plenty of devices that either amount to vaporware or mere novelties, as well as products that (though intriguing) are unlikely to take off until a lot more work is done to address shortcomings in areas such as cost, size and functionality. However, CES also showcases a lot of compelling new offerings that are either ready for prime time, or have a clear path towards large-scale adoption.

Following are some of the products that caught my eye for the right and wrong reasons (keeping some products anonymous):

I. The one company that blew my mind (literally) was BrainCo. BrainCo has a brain-machine interface hardware and software platform that allows direct communications between the human brains and external devices. At CES, they displayed an AI-driven prosthetic hand that only needs a couple of minutes of initial calibration and improves significantly over time with the learning. This is the first time a product like this can make it to the market.

Hence, the bed rock of any great product is innovation.

Prosthetic hand imitating my hand gestures based on the signals captured by the wrist band

II. Samsung Gear VR set up an elaborate experience zone for attendees to experience Mixed Reality and ski or snowboard down a virtual mountain, hurtle down a skeleton track or even fly through the air with dinosaurs. The line for one of these games (Flying Dino) was over 2 hours long! 
Each station was paired with additional paraphernalia, like a lateral ski trainer or rows of flight-sim seats, to bring the experience to life.

User Experience is the ultimate key.

Samsung Gear Experience Zone

III. Aflac, winner of Best of CES 2018 award displayed a social robotic duck designed to help children coping with cancer.

Aflac duck imitating emotions

There was another kids’ robotic companion with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) capabilities but it also has a small detachable vacuum cleaner at its back. While that’s useful but if the original vision of the product is to educate kids and help them code, play and learn or is it to teach them how to help in household work wasn’t clear.

Thus, a clear vision really differentiates products.

IV. A robotic company showcased a product that takes care of the elderly and also helps in educating your children. While the product is amazing and the tech stack is very robust, the needs of their potential customers vary greatly. 
 The effort and capital to build a product that takes care of such multi-faceted needs is immense, and hence they have done a commendable job. But, as an end customer, I wasn’t sure if I would buy it for my niece or my grandfather? I’d rather buy separate robots for both of them.

Positioning must always be crystal clear.

In fact, Miko (Emotix) from India were also present at the CES which is a child’s companion robot targeting overall development of your children, both on the educational and emotional front. Was glad to see some of the Indian companies doing really well globally.

Miko+ booth

V. Not a specific product but just the phenomenon of voice being the future of everything was pretty evident at CES 2018, with a Google Assistant banner or an Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant compatible company ALWAYS in your eyesight throughout the convention.

Riding on the next big wave as the incumbent or as a new player with a strong niche differentiation will give us the next set of viral companies and products.

If you have any inputs, happy to engage and understand your perspective or if you are working something disruptive and want to reach out, I’m reachable on kriti_gupta@idgvcindia.com