CES 2023 or the Consumer Electronics Show is by far the biggest tech trade show with around 115,000 attendees from over 100 countries converging at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Organised and owned by the Consumer Technology Association or CTA, the event is a signifier of the current trends in tech.
Analytics India Magazine caught up with Steve Koenig, the VP of Research at the Consumer Technology Association, to learn more about what was new, interesting and different in this edition.
AIM: What were the biggest trends you saw emerge from CES 2023?
Steve: So, while it was a very big show by every measure and very successful, I think we’ll see even more growth for 2024.
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There were a lot of different trends and one of the overarching themes was security. We had a partnership with the World Academy of Arts and Science, which is adjunct to the UN and they put forward several security provisions around financial, personal, and community security, etc. This was the template that overlaid the show and a lot of trends fit neatly into this framework.
One major theme at CES every year is transportation. This time the major goal was electrification in the sector. We’ve been talking about electric vehicles for a while now but what was really interesting to see is how that ecosystem is evolving. Autonomy is moving not just for passenger vehicles but also for commercial trucks. This is really important because shortage of labour has become a macroeconomic issue. So, if twenty years ago technology was the ‘nice to have’ for businesses, today, humans are the ‘nice to have’. We just can’t hire enough truck drivers to do these things and rail is not always an option.
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Transportation is really the transformation of the vehicle experience. We describe this through a lens of ‘screenification’ of a lot more screens and vehicles. What we’re seeing now is the vehicle as a marketplace with 5G connectivity and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri.
I also want to focus on health technology as this has been a trend for many years. There are many different testing technologies for health monitoring and nutrition. There are also technologies on the diagnostic front that are augmenting and enhancing telehealth.
One other big trend seen across CES was sustainability which has become a big umbrella term now. There’s a lot underneath this – technologies that support clean air and clean water or products that use less packaging or sustainable packaging with recycled materials. And beyond that there is alternative power like hydrogen and wind energy.
AIM: Metaverse and Web3 took centre stage this time. What were your biggest observations in this area?
Steve: Metaverse and Web3 were other huge trends at CES since this sphere is really at the salience of innovation. What’s interesting about metaverse is that these ideas are immediately met with scepticism because of the marketing spin that companies usually put on when saying they have a metaverse solution. The term may be still somewhat speculative, but as a trend, it is legitimate. This is actually very congruent with the early days of the internet in the 1990s.
So, what we did see at CES around the metaverse took two shapes. One is virtualisation, which is important because one of the things we’re learning about the metaverse is that it doesn’t necessarily mean a hybrid immersive experience. There can be degrees of immersion. And what it really means is that this next generation of the internet will deliver experiences that have an elevated sense of immersion. And that could be full immersion, or just a little bit more immersive than what we see today.
For instance, there was an emerging brand at CES called Touchcast which has partnered with Microsoft for virtual online retail stores. There are emerging use cases and technologies to support fully immersive online experiences but a lot of what we saw is taking place on the enterprise or commercial side. This is because most consumers don’t own a VR headset at least yet as they’re really expensive.
So, an important observation to make is that the strategies around metaverse are changing and as we push these different core strategies to the enterprise side or to the consumer side, we get different elements. So, for the consumer side, it could be entertainment, gaming, retail, and online shopping for the enterprise and commercial business.
I believe what we will see next is the trajectory for the metaverse and we’re just going to see more and more experiences each year across the spectrum of immersion. Some may be lightly immersive but very accessible and then those other experiences that are hyper immersive and eventually maybe we get to something like a Ready Player One virtual world and so forth, but who knows when that will happen.
There were three major brands that were noticeable – Microsoft Magic Leap, Siemens, which had a very interesting demo exhibit with a company called Space Perspective that is one of the pioneers in sustainable space tourism.
AIM: Self-driving has been the star of the show for a few years. But do you think there’s a shift in perspective because complete autonomy still isn’t close?
Steve: A lot of important tech trends have evolved over the years and even decades. And this has certainly been true with self-driving and autonomy in general. In many ways, the engineering is good and it works but what we’re figuring out now is why the deployment of self-driving vehicles has not happened as fast as previously thought.
But what’s important is to understand that it’s not necessarily an indictment against the technology. It simply means that we want to get it right and are discovering new challenges like what if a tree falls down etc? Meanwhile, there’s also work going on with the supportive technology to enable self-driving vehicles that’s helping the overall ecosystem for autonomy.