The first week of the new year sees the technology industry descend upon Las Vegas for the largest electronics show on earth. Amongst them at CES was VCCP’s innovation lead Will Harvey, who has some tips on what trends to watch out for in 2017.
With the introduction of GUI (graphical user interfaces) into personal computing back in the 80s, the world witnessed a dramatic shift in how we interact with technology. From a complex, text-based interface we have moved towards a more user-friendly navigation that has fundamentally shifted the personal electronics industry.
Some of you may already be familiar with the Word error rate (WER), the common metric for the performance of speech recognition or machine translation system. In 1995, when Microsoft kicked this off it had a 100% error rate, in 2013 it was down to 23% and now in 2017 it is just 5%, which is the same error rate humans have with one another. In fact, we’ve seen more advances in the last 30 months than in the last 30 years.
This will usher in a new era of faceless computing, something we’re starting to see penetrate a number of sectors, particularly with wearables and perhaps most recently in partnership with the AI assistants boom, such as with Google Home and Amazon Echo.
With this new interface comes new opportunity. We can expect to see voice activated systems double in 2017 and we’ll see brands leverage the metadata collected from these systems to inform more advanced and accurate future interactions.
This is rich and vibrant territory for marketers and brands to create more personalised interactions through individual speech recognition. It’s also a simpler and more natural progression for the interface of the machines with which we are increasingly surrounding ourselves.
AI and personal assistants
Last year virtual reality was one of the top trends discussed at CES. This year it was all about artificial intelligence.
One of the recurring discussion points at CES around this trend was the progression towards bringing AI into the home, most notably through smart hubs.
Over the past year, we have seen a marked increase in the number of brands bringing out smart hubs: Google, Amazon and more recently Lenovo, with recent figures suggesting there are now over 10 million Amazon Echo units in peoples’ homes.
Devices such as these are bringing AI into the real world and have a wide range of functions: they’re a daily news digest and a music player; they can manage your work and social calendar and even control other smart objects around the house. And it’s all activated with your voice.
The data captured by the hub’s built-in microphones, including key trigger words, is then sent back to a central hub, analysed and cross-referenced with all the other Amazon Echoes or Google Homes on the network in a process called aggregated learning (a trend we picked up from last year’s CES). This feedback loop ensures real advances in machine intelligence are made possible, facilitating smarter and more reliable interactions in the future.
No longer is the smart home a niche idea reserved only for the early adopters and Internet of Things bubble dwellers. We’ve started to see more and more connected products in our homes, from the locks on our doors to the thermostats for our heating. Smart hubs are becoming the heart of the connected home, acting as a means of bringing all these connected services together to deliver simple, innovative functionality – all controlled via your voice, rather than your fingertips.
The future of travel
If there’s one trend that has stood out most at CES over the last five years it’s the growth and progress of the automotive industry. Nowhere is this more evident than in the keynote slots usually reserved for electronic manufacturers such as Samsung or LG, which are now being hosted by automotive brands such as Mercedes and Nissan.
The first few days of CES saw announcements from most of the major manufacturers regarding concept cars and their visions for what the future of the automotive industry might look like. Toyota, Nissan and VW exhibited their own concept cars, all of which, despite none being close to consumer-ready, were major points of attraction.
However, the most notable advancement and one that’s attracted considerable attention at CES and beyond is, of course, the shift toward driverless – a technology that is being heavily invested in by those showcasing at the trade show.
Driverless tech has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 12 months; what was basically a camera stuck to a car has now become a streamlined, integrated bit of tech that’s slowly making its way into the real world: from Ford’s parking assistance to Tesla’s motorway autopilot.
An interesting development to arise from the discussion around driverless cars is that of communal space: space freed up as a result of autonomous driving. As noted by representatives of UPS, GE and the Canadian government in their session ‘Cities of the Future’ as well as by Zipcar and Lyft in their sessions 'Powering the sharing economy to transform lives', the move to driverless cars will see a rise in the amount of content consumed in cars, with in-car entertainment already a huge market. With our attention diverted from the road we could see a demand for group interactions and activities between destinations – something Mercedes is keen to jump on as demonstrated by their inward facing seats concept.
However, it was two-year-old startup and new kid on the block Faraday Future, the car company looking to rival Tesla in the electronic vehicle market, who stole the show by unveiling its plans to disrupt the industry with the world’s fastest-accelerating electric car – the FF91.
All in all, CES was more evolutionary than it was revolutionary but it’s clear there are some interesting developments in the pipeline. The event as a whole has moved away from being a showcase for new headsets and TVs to a platform for manufacturers, brands and companies to share their visions of the future and to debate the ongoing impact of technology on today’s society.
Will Harvey, is innovation lead at VCCP.