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CES 2022 Preview: Welcome Back to the Future

Five innovation trends to look forward to at CES this week

CES 2022 is set to open in Las Vegas on Wednesday with a hybrid approach, despite the recent Omicron spikes. After a year of uncertainty, we once again eagerly cast our eyes to the future to discern where the confluence of media and technology is leading consumer attention. As always, we here at the Lab are excited to share with you the latest announcements and insights from the CES show floors and beyond.

Having parsed through some of the early announcements from exhibitors, we have pinpointed the following five future-forward trends that innovation-minded marketers should look out for at this CES.

Smarter Tools for Creators

At its heart, CES is first and foremost a hardware-oriented event, and every year, vendors from all over the world bring their latest inventions to the Vegas show floors. In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of gizmos aimed at capitalizing on the booming creator economy — now estimated to be a $100 billion vector — by helping the ever-growing number of creators generate professional-grade content with ease and affordability. Be it new cameras, microphones, or simply smartphone accessories, these creator-friendly tools and gadgets are forming the foundation for democratized creativity that is shaping the future of media content.

This year, we are seeing new manifestations of this creator-led trend as vendors evolve their offerings from hardware products into software tools. Take the Tooning app from Samsung’s innovation offshoot C-Lab for example. Tooning is a cartoon creation program that uses AI and machine learning to help users easily design cartoon characters and apply motions to them. Intended for a wide variety of use cases such as presentations and online campaigns, this Tooning app is a prime example of leveraging advances in machine learning to lower the barrier for content creation.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we neglect to mention the hottest sector of the creator economy at the moment — the crypto community. 2021 was truly the year where the world woke up to the transformative potential of blockchain technology and started to see crypto technologies as more than virtual currencies. The explosive popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other crypto-based collectibles sparked immense interests among consumers and brands alike, opening up a brand new venue for digital creators to monetize their creations.

In its pre-show press release, Samsung teased that it is set to introduce NFTs to its TV sets by launching the world’s first TV-based NFT explorer and marketplace aggregator. No much detail has been shared about how Samsung plans to implement this service, but it does sound like a promising step towards making NFTs more accessible for regular consumers. Similarly, Netgear is turning its connected picture frame into a display for NFTs, further boosting the visibility of crypto-based digital collectibles.

A Safer Home that “Just Works”

Smart home technology has been a steadily growing sector at CES for over a decade, and we have come a long way since the early days of smart speakers being the centerpiece of the smart home conversation. Over the past few years, connectivity has seemingly made its way through nearly every room and every appliance in our homes. Whether it’s a connected faucet for touchless control, or a smart mirror that can analyze your skin conditions, CES is never in shortage of new connected home devices that will make your life a little easier. For example, Sony will showcase a camera for its TVs that can adjust TV settings based on where you’re sitting in the room.

This year, however, there appears to be a shift of focus that emphasizes safety and security over novel functionalities. After a year of uncertainty, it makes sense that consumers would crave connected home devices that “just work.” Whether it’s new video doorbells or outdoor security cameras, or connected home security systems with NFC built-in so authorized users can simply tap their phone to disarm the system, smart home makers are making a concerted effort to make peace of mind a greater selling point.

Integrated solutions are also on the rise at home to provide a better sense of safety and convenience, even for something as trivial as recharging batteries. For example, door manufacturer Masonite is set to showcase the first smart door at CES 2022, highlighting the home building industry’s embrace of connected technology. Billed as the first residential exterior door to natively integrate power, lights, sensors, a video doorbell, and a smart lock into the door system, its integrated power solution does away with the hassle of recharging batteries. Similarly, Samsung’s new TV remote promises radio waves from your WiFi router to keep itself charged.

With the Matter smart home interoperability standards starting to roll out across device makers, be sure to also keep an eye out for the various home appliances that will add support for Matter to boost their cross-platform compatibility and make connected home devices work together more smoothly. For instance, Comcast will bring its Matter-compiled new WiFi router that also supports the new WiFi 6E standard to CES.

More Immersive Escapes

Immersive displays and headsets have been a mainstay at CES for a few years now. Various VR headsets are an obvious contender for providing virtual escapes, and the latest offerings from HTC and Oculus will no doubt make an appearance on the show floors. But this year, we are seeing even more innovative takes on creating immersive experiences that aim to transport and entertain users in new dimensions.

For example, LG is applying new designs to its curved display tech with two flexible OLED concepts at CES 2022. One is an immersive “Media Chair” made up of a recliner with a 55-inch OLED TV attached to it. The display can alternate between portrait and landscape orientations with the touch of a button located on the armrest of the chair. If that seems geared towards enabling futuristic couch potatoes, worry not! LG will also be showcasing an immersive stationary bike that uses three giant OLED displays to form one continuous screen in front and above the rider to keep them entertained.

Immersive escapes are not just found around the home; some startups are also experimenting with interesting OOH display technologies to bring new dimensions to public spaces. For example, VideowindoW is a Dutch company that aims to turn glare control on glass windows into new media opportunities. They will be showcasing a proprietary technology that can convert entire glass façades into huge transparent video screens to provide immersive entertainment. Their technology is already being tested in some European airports where commercial content is deployed to positive results.

Metaverse Everywhere

“Metaverse” is undoubtedly one of the hottest tech buzzwords at the moment, thanks in large part to Facebook’s recent rebranding as Meta. And as is the case with most buzzwords, we can expect the concept of the metaverse to pop up everywhere at this CES — perhaps even in places it should not. Already we are seeing the term being applied to anything related to virtual spaces, whether it’s the home decor design platform from Samsung or the mixed-reality platform that Transmira developed to help businesses and creators attach AR and VR experiences to real-world locations.

A closer look reveals that different companies have very different definitions of what constitutes a “metaverse.” For Hyundai, the metaverse is a 3D digital platform called M. Vision Town, in which CES attendees can drive its two concept vehicles with personalized avatars. For 8chilli, the metaverse is an AR platform made specifically for physicians and healthcare professionals to connect with their patients. For Nvidia, metaverse will hopefully be built with its free collaborative 3D graphics and rendering toolkit called Omniverse. Spanish startup Owo perhaps stretches the conventional definition of (the) metaverse the farthest; the company promises to transport you into the metaverse with their gaming vest, which uses haptic technology to deliver vibrations that simulate different sensations your online avatar may be experiencing, be it catching a ball or getting hit.

Overall, we are still in the early stages of metaverse development. As a platform-oriented concept, the metaverse seems unlikely to showcase true breakthroughs at a hardware-oriented event like CES. Nevertheless, new hardware devices will open new portals for regular users to interact with the types of metaverse-lite environments that are in-market today, whether it’s for gaming, entertainment, or enterprise use cases. Therefore, despite the intentional mislabeling and overwhelming amount of noise around this concept, it is still worthwhile to keep an eye out for genuine experiments and use cases of the metaverse at CES.

A New Era for Sustainability

Eco-friendly and sustainable technologies are no stranger to CES at this point. As climate change continues to manifest itself in frighteningly tangible ways, investments in sustainability solutions continue to increase and expand to new categories. Besides the growing amount of electric vehicles and EV charging solutions, mobility remains a big area for new sustainable solutions. For example, the Robot Express created by Mindtronic AI is a smart logistic service that leverages the public transportation network for delivering goods, with a goal to save energy by transporting the passengers and goods on the same fleet of shuttles.

Smart city is another innovation territory where sustainability is a recurring theme. From companies like Agrove, which aims to spread urban agriculture with its modular vertical gardens, to Ferr-Tech’s water treatment solution that hopes to solve the ever-growing global problem of clean water scarcity, eco-minded startups are bringing new sustainability solutions to CES. Plus, smart city management systems that leverage digital twin models to conserve and allocate energy use are gaining traction.

Besides keeping track of these major trends on the CES show floor, we also look forward to bringing you the latest and greatest from this event. In collaboration with MAGNA Global, we will be hosting content sessions on industry disruptions on Wednesday and Thursday. Be sure to get in touch with our Director of Client Services, Ben Hone (ben@ipglab.com), if you’re interested. We will also be sending out daily CES recaps, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter at www.ipglab.com or reach out to Richard Yao (richard@ipglab.com).

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The media futures agency of IPG Mediabrands

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Richard Yao

Richard Yao

Manager of Strategy & Content, IPG Media Lab

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