CES bills itself as the most influential tech show in the world, and rightfully so. Every year we are shown fantastic visions of the future, and we dream of all that could be possible. However, as the year goes on, we can't help but feel disappointed as those visions we were promised fail to materialize in our daily lives.
In 2022 we saw something different. Futuristic technologies that are ready to launch — robots serving drinks, autonomous tractors cultivating fields, and holographic displays providing an immersive shopping experience — replaced idealized visions of the future. We saw ready-for-the-market products that pushed the limits of what is possible and more important, the pace of technological growth quickening. The lead time to develop new consumer-ready products has dramatically decreased.
CES 2022 has left us more excited than it has in any year before — not because of the promises made but because of the promises delivered.
Macro Themes at CES
Every year, CES is saturated with automatons of dubious utility. This time, however, several of the newsmaking keynotes at CES featured reasonably functional, commercially ready robots from major manufacturers like LG, Hyundai, Waymo and others, performing workday tasks with little fuss. What if voice assistants like Alexa were embodied, and given physical agency within your house? Entries from Labrador Systems and others signaled this transformative moment for home automation, elder care, accessibility, and use cases yet to be discovered. 2022 could well be the year when pizza delivery by autonomous drone becomes commonplace.
Few words came up more often this CES than “immersion.” Ironically, while some companies worked to build technology that helps us be more present in our minds, we saw others refining some spectacular technology that helps us be more present virtually. Whether it was a curved TV designed for gaming, wearables that help you experience more senses in the Metaverse, or shopping technology that allows us to experience products virtually, the technology itself will recede as you immerse yourself more deeply into the experience.
Tech For Good
There was a bevy of inclusive tech for people with disabilities, sustainable products, products designed to help make our relationship with technology healthier, tools designed to keep us and our “stuff” safe online, and so much more. We also saw the devices that led to these products — “healthier” smartphones for kids, wearables designed to aid people with visual impairments, Roomba-like drones that collect trash in the ocean, and AI that develops synthetic models to build a more inclusive shopping experience. These advancements are driven by consumer demand, and it’s not just good for the world, but also a company’s bottom line.
Into the Metaverse
The metaverse – the melding together of Social, Gaming, and Commerce in embodied, virtual spaces online – exploded into view with Facebook’s re-branding as Meta in October. It had been percolating for years before that day, but that event signaled a gold rush as brands and industries grapple with the implications of shared, persistent virtual spaces heralding the next wave of the Internet. What we experienced at CES further pushed us into the metaverse, through it, and out the other side to control robots in remote locations – talk about meta!
At CES and Beyond, Commerce Continues to Evolve
CES is often focused on mobility, robots, screens, connectivity, and we continue to see a few of these areas arise in the commerce and retail space. The increase in digital and mobile shopping precipitated by the pandemic is not subsiding. And advancements in technology are making immersive experiences and business solutions more accessible to brands, retailers, and consumers.
Tech for Good - Tech is enabling more inclusive, connected and sustainable shopping experiences.
• LALA Land is using AI for both inclusivity and sustainability. Its technology helps consumers by creating synthetic human models for eCommerce brands. They have built a solid business blending social empowerment (enabling diversity in its models) and sustainability (reducing return rates due to poor fitting purchases).
• Consumers are starting to care more and more about the environmental and economic impact of their purchases. In addition to being a sustainable online marketplace, DayRize offers a sustainability assessment tool to determine the environmental impact of a product by looking at the product life cycle from sourcing to production to shipping.
• Expivi uses its 3D product configuration platform and augmented reality to allow customers to personalize and customize their products and provides a direct link from the configured product directly to production so that you can produce only what you sell and reduce unnecessary waste, warehousing and lower returns. Now is this realistic for all business models, no, but it's a great example of being able to use technology to support a more sustainable footprint.
Immersive Digital Shopping - Technology enables brands and retailers a means of experiencing a product that is fully immersive yet does not include the product.
• PulpoAR is a virtual try-on technology for makeup and skincare that integrates AR and AI for shopping and the metaverse. PulpoAR announced MetaBeauty; connecting the physical and digital worlds. MetaBeauty is posing to shape a new revolution in virtual make-up technologies. The experience, to launch later in 2022, will allow makeup artists, influencers and brands to present their NTF collections. They will offer a wallet, marketplace, app and visual NFT explorer for an immersive community experience.
• StyleAR, by Deepixel, is an augmented reality try-on solution for jewelry, eyewear, nails, and watches. The mobile-optimized AI vision technology runs in real-time tracking 3D face and hand movement using only a single camera. StyleAR can help shoppers enjoy a new shopping experience by seamlessly finding the best fit and style of the product for the shopper. Marketers can get more customer engagement and reduce the cost on return and exchanges via StyleAR.
Last Mile Delivery Solutions - A significant shortage in truck drivers and the drastic rise in consumer demand for delivery (both driven by the pandemic) are forcing retailers and marketplaces to explore autonomous delivery solutions.
• Self Driving Trucks – While autonomous long-haul trucking is still pretty far out in our future, several major companies are testing the space. TuSimple completed its first autonomous truck run (80 miles) on public roads without a driver in the vehicle. They are looking to scale the technology and usage by 2024. As of late 2021, DHL has reserved 100 of these autonomous trucks to integrate into its operations.
• Robot Delivery – LG displayed its door-to-door delivery robot that is tasked with bringing packages to people. The small four-wheeled unit can run both indoors and outdoors. At the press conference, the robot was shown dynamically navigating various terrains including snow and stairs. Ottonomy showed their delivery robot designed to make autonomous delivery for food and restaurants to consumers. Once a consumer places an order, the robot navigates to the pickup point, allows for contactless loading and safely delivers the order with a simple scan from your mobile device.
• Drone Delivery – Irish-based Manna is currently running 2,000-3,000 flights per day delivering perfectly hot coffees and burgers and frosty ice creams in Ireland. Manna also has licenses for mainland Europe and will soon be arriving in Canada. These drones can do 10 fully autonomous deliveries an hour at a fraction of the cost of car-based solutions.