CES 2018

Recapping CES 2018

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.

Product Trends

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. 

AR/VR

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.

HUD Units

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

GPS Tracking

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

Personal Environment

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.

Instead of just learning how to build a bot or use pictogram software to give it a few basic commands, these robots help students learn how to code from the ground up--and in variety of languages. Starting with the time-tested method of pictorial representation, as commands for the bot become increasingly complex, students are able to write code in variety of ways until they're ultimately comfortable working with code directly in languages like Swift, Python, and JavaScript. Our favorite: Root Robotics

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.

--Kelsey

Kelsey Ganes
Manager, Client Experience
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Trade Show Best Practices

Trade Show Best Practices

Happy New Year! It's officially trade show season across the US and as our team prepares to attend some of the larger shows this year, we thought it was selfish not to share. Whether you're an exhibitor or attendee, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you stay organized and minimize your post-show follow ups.

Refining Your Elevator Pitch

While we're sure this doesn't piece of advice doesn't come as a surprise, we wanted to provide additional insight into what we've found to be the most relevant talking points to think about when revamping your elevator pitch:

What's the product?

Be clear--it's not always readily apparent to someone new to your field or industry.

Who is it for?

Clearly articulate the product's intended audience or target market. New moms? Kids 8-12? Executives? Professionals? This information can help determine appropriate fit just as much as the product's intended use.

Why would someone buy your product? What purpose does it serve?

What need does your product meet? What niche does it fill? Why did you develop it and why is it important to you? Are there any "off label" or alternative use cases?

Where can consumers purchase your product?

Describe your distribution. Is your product still in development? Are you only selling direct to consumers through your website's online store? Do you work with a distributor? Are you in local, regional or national brick and mortar stores? Are you on Amazon or eBay? How's it going? Are any channels over- or underperforming relative to the rest?

Are you ready to ship?

Is the product ready to ship tomorrow? Are you still prototyping or garnering interest and funding? Make sure this is information is readily available and keep in mind that when it comes to product deadlines, under promise and overdeliver: don't push up the availability date if you're not confident production can keep this promise.

Help us gauge the size of your business: how sophisticated are your operations and logistics? Do you have product in warehouses across the country? Are you packing products by hand to fill customer orders?

Managing Business Cards

For any event where you plan to hand out business cards, label your business cards with the name of event -- whether you stick on a printed label or just write it on the back of the card, this eliminates the post-con game of "When did I talk to XYZ? What was the context of our conversation?" and ensures that anyone who ends up with your card can immediately identify when and where you met.

If you're on the receiving end, the same idea applies: if the name of the show or conference isn't already present, jot it down on the back along with any other notes from the conversation. The next step is following through on these connections as soon as possible--we really can't stress expediency enough. We know how crazy these shows can be and it's not unreasonable to be concerned about getting lost in someone's inbox backlog, but just like thank you notes, timeliness is key.

Making Connections

The old adage of "You never know who you're talking to" is not often more relevant than at a trade show or conference. We're not talking about being kind to strangers--we know you've got that down-- but about making connections in the least likely of places.

Make friends with neighboring exhibitors--even competitors. Yes, even the competition. Whether it's having someone to watch over the booth so you can walk the show for a few minutes or a future co-packer, you never know who has a connection you'll need to leverage down the road.

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Now, go get 'em, tiger!

--Kelsey

Kelsey Ganes
Manager, Client Experience
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com