Why you don’t need to solve a problem to draw a crowd…

Hardcore product designers may pride themselves on meeting a genuine user need or solving an actual problem (720 degree VR cameras don’t count), but when it comes to drawing a crowd CES 2017 has taught me some valuable lessons.

  1. Don’t hesitate to resort to holograms & dubstep
Easily the most packed out stand at Eureka Park

2. Show them a problem they didn’t realise they had, or at least an opportunity to buy more robots.

An autonomous pooper scooper! I finally have time to clean the BBQ, oh wait…

3. Create a product demonstration so confusing, you’ll have to stop and look.

What does this business make, seriously, tiny Einsteins?

All jokes aside, CES showed gave some big hints as to where tech products are heading.

One unavoidable fact was the coming influx of well designed and inexpensive products from Xiaomi, also known as Mi. The Beijing company showcased a plethora of smart tech, from a FitBit-esque device for $22(!), high specced PCs and IOT devices boasting modern industrial design. In my opinion, this ‘IKEA’ of tech is about to take over.

Sometimes known as the ‘Apple’ of China, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Xiaomi.
Some bluetooth speakers started at $10 a pop.
Mi exhibition at CES

Another product that showed promise, was an interesting advance in sensing technology from a company called SCIO. The sensor intends to allow users to identify different organic materials, from fruits and veg to different varieties of cake and sends calorific date to your phone. Considering that it’s January and calorie counting is popular around now, my first question was whether it links to MyFitnessPal. Although it doesn’t, it’s still early days for the company. I’m not quite clear on where they plan to position the product, and to which market they’re targeting. Their website suggests it’s to be sold as an educational device, which I think undersells it’s potential.

Considering the technical issues surrounding the device, such as sensing foods/meals with inconsistent contents, requiring manual food input and sensing material incorrectly (see demo below), this will take a good few years of development prior to becoming mainstream.

SCIO’s slightly unsuccessful product demo

“It has showed we’re solving an important problem!” — LinkSquare.

A more credible device seen in Eureka Park was created by a company called Stratio, they’ve received $2.2M investment to produce a hand held spectrometer for drug identification, within a pharmacy environment. They’ve called it LinkSquare, and with a clear use case in mind, and adequate funding I have high hopes for this US X South Korean startup.

So as much as bright lights and loud music attracts a crowd, it’s still products that fulfil a genuine need or enable users to experience something new that makes it past the fads and into our daily lives.


If you want to read more about product development and the startup process take a look at our other posts from Central Research Laboratory: London’s hardware accelerator and coworking space.