Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

VCCP's Will Harvey Gives the Lowdown on Day Two at CES

Advertising Agency
London, UK
The innovation lead at VCCP offers his latest dispatch from the Consumer Electronics Show

Last year virtual reality was one of the top trends discussed at CES. This year it’s all about artificial intelligence.

The rise of AI can be attributed to its impact on a number of sectors, from system automation, intelligent city, personal assistants and the smart home, to name a few.

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.

Due in part to the sheer amount of data that can be leveraged from the likes of Google and Amazon (and, more worryingly, the additional data collected on the user), it’s hardly surprising that we’re seeing an increased interest in smart home solutions. 

Using built-in microphones these smart hubs are listening for key trigger words by recording and capturing commands asked of them by the user. The data 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.  

Indeed, as GfK’s Kathy Sheehan and Tom Neri highlighted in their session ‘Millennials live the smart life’, there is an increasing demand for smart home solutions across generations. Admittedly, there’s still progress to be made if ‘the smart life’ is to be truly adopted by the mainstream audience. One of the key points raised was around the level of information the smart hubs can provide, with the hope of progressing from weather updates to reminders to add items to your weekly shop.

We are starting to see some good progress in this area, particularly of service functionalities. For example, getting live updates on the status of your Uber or the more recent news of Just Eat teaming up with Amazon’s Alexa to let you re-order and check where you meal is, both of which are steps towards a more streamlined individual-to-device interaction.

And this is just the beginning. As we see more and more capabilities built into these devices along with the increased intelligence behind voice recognition and contextual commands, we can expect to see brands capitalise on these advances in a big way with both the launch of new products as well as the building upon and progression of existing ones.

On the whole, it would seem society is welcoming of smart assistance and there are certainly times when it has a positive impact on our lives by streamlining interactions and simplifying mundane tasks. Companies must be aware, however, of falling into the old age trap of creating a solution for problems that don’t actually exist. It’ll be interesting to see what 2017 throws up – if CES is anything to go by it should be very exciting indeed.