Before we dive in, I'd like to take a moment on behalf of the entire ARMR team to to thank all of the incredible exhibitors we had the pleasure of meeting last week--we are deeply appreciative of your time and were, of course, enthralled by your products, vision, and earnest desire to change the world. We had the opportunity to meet and speak with some truly remarkable individuals and companies, pioneering what we're sure will soon be some of the most popular and influential tech and devices on the market. We were beyond impressed by the individuals and companies we spoke to and we can't wait to see how far each of you--and your products--will go.
CES 2018 in a Nutshell
Where previous years have been a showcase for groundbreaking, industry-changing technology, this year's show was noticeably different--and somewhat lackluster. Instead of a sea of booths boasting the latest tech, there was a profusion ancillary products; products whose sole purpose is to bridge the gap between existing products and augment established technologies to allow for better integration, broader application, or support "off-label" use-cases. From smart watches for every style and OS to VR headsets for a range of devices, industrial drones, and smart clothes which monitor and record your workout--products which expand on existing technologies to fill holes across industries and markets.
One of CES' key features is the opportunity to explore and interact with cutting-edge products in progress: the chance to play with prototypes and daydream about their potential use-cases and applications. This year seemed to take "in development" to an entirely new level and a large number of these products were unable to deliver: software issues, malfunctioning sensors, unexpected errors--the works. While many of these products demonstrated exceptional ingenuity, user-focused design, and genuine real-world applications--but it's difficult to be excited by a product that fails to live up to its own demo reel--and seemed to be lightyears from market-ready.
There were also a surprising number of derivative products. Though this was especially prominent in the cell phone accessories and toys spaces, even wearable technology was rife with booth after booth of companies and products indistinguishable from one another.
Alexa & Google Home Compatibility
"Smart" technology and devices are becoming ubiquitous but compatibility and connected device "capacity" is a consistent challenge, but maybe not for long. Nearly every product we encountered proudly displayed Amazon Alexa and Google Home logos, trumpeting their compatibility with the two most prominent Virtual Assistants on the market--and it's about time.
Unsurprisingly, the move towards Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is accelerating rapidly. In tandem with AR/VR development, motion capture (MoCap) rigs are becoming increasingly refined and accessible to companies hoping to get into the world of AR/VR. Unfortunately, the industry as a whole has jumped into the deep end, investing in a fledgling technology that is still fighting to become mainstream.
The applications for AR/VR are seemingly endless, certainly far beyond entertainment media, consumer accessibility is a persistent problem. No one can deny that AR/VR is the wave of the future, but the systems and options currently on the market are still inaccessible to most consumers: AR/VR systems themselves remain expensive and unwieldy, in addition to relatively sophisticated (read: expensive) minimum system requirements for operation and more than a little know-how when it comes to setting up and installing the system itself--we're definitely not at "out of the box" setup quite yet.
In addition to CES, there are over a dozen international conferences on AR/VR scattered across the globe this year--who knows what the industry will look like by this time next year.
Heads-up displays have been around for a while, in one form or another, but not like this. While there were more than a few cycling and snow sport helmets, there were a handful of dashboard units which project onto a vehicle's windshield--and beyond. From on-road navigation and destination/location indicators to fuel economy monitoring and speedometer display, these HUD units employ AR technology to help drivers keep their eyes on the road without sacrificing navigation or other essential information. Our favorite: Navion by WayRay
It seems like there's a GPS tracker for everything: pets, glasses, keys, wallets, children, water bottles, the development of gas in your digestive tract--no, really. But all trackers are not created equal: location accuracy, durability, and battery life can vary dramatically. Some companies have already distinguished themselves from the pack with additional features that go from "That's pretty cool" to "Holy smokes, Batman, I've gotta get me one of those!"
Wallet gets stolen? Report it as "lost" in the app and the next time someone opens your wallet, the built-in camera in the credit card-sized tracker will snap a photo of the trespasser and send it to your phone. Or, you know that your sunglasses are in the car, but still can't find them: some trackers ring, vibrate, or flash to help grab your attention. Our favorite: Orbit
Overlapping beauty, medical, and home categories, we were surprised to see dozens--if not hundreds--of products dedicated to augmenting your personal environment. Misters and humidifiers, ionizers, air purifiers--now, there's a device for that, too. There was an especially mind-boggling array of personal misters, some outfitted to disperse essential oils for aromatherapy on-the-go. We're not entirely sure where this trend is heading, but if CES is any indicator, we'll be keeping our eye on the category.
Education & STEAM
Educational, and specifically STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics)-oriented, toys have been around for decades, but the variety of products emerging in this category is incredibly encouraging. While build-your-own-robots aren't new to the scene, we were thrilled to witness some fun and exciting innovations within this category: robots which help kids learn to code. We all know coding, software engineering and computer sciences are soon to be essential subjects in any curriculum, and some companies have already developed products that are perfect for the classroom.
We also saw a number of new-to-market products that address behavior and development: from toys that assist with behavioral correction or modification to RFID board games which track development through the child's response time, accuracy of placement, and complexity of engagement, there are products for teachers and educators, parents, counselors, and more.
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