From robotics to virtual reality, this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas provided a glimpse of the role technology will play in our lives moving forward. And we’re certainly moving in the right direction if we think about just how far we can go with the ideas and products that were covered at CES. Sure, the televisions got skinnier and the virtual reality worlds became sharper, but the real theme this year was about how we’re beginning to integrate technology into our day to day lives. Instead of living in the silos of smart phones, connected homes or smart cars, we’re now entering the world of integration between all these things.
First, let’s start with just the sheer scale of CES itself and the huge number of exhibitors and attendees gathering in the Sin City dessert. This was also a big year for CES since they celebrated their 50th anniversary and it’s a show that’s become a tradition for those of us in the tech industry. But CES is one of those rare shows that usually has everyone’s interest in some way since many of the products introduced here will be on everyone’s shopping list during the 2017 holidays.
So, let’s jump into what had everyone’s interest during the show this year. Well aside from 3 display laptops to cardboard thin 4K TVs, the real interest was in AI or artificial intelligence. Amazon Echo has had tremendous success in the last year and we’re seeing their AI being integrated with a range of products. But we also saw brands like LG and Sony taking a dip into the smart home AI devices themselves, however, with the addition of visual personality to the actual devices. If you’ve ever felt that your Alexa lacks the visual personality and is missing a face, then LG and Sony may have products to help you out with that soon.
But one of the biggest trends right now is Virtual Reality and Samsung certainly pulled out all the stops by providing a VR arcade/theme park experience in their Galaxy booth. It begins with you getting strapped in as you would normally do in a roller coaster, then snap on the VR goggles and you’re immersed in another world. The movement from the chair makes the experience feel real and similar to how you would feel if you were riding around on a 100ft tall roller coaster.
But VR is quickly becoming more than just a way to experience places or roller coasters, and is now being integrated with ecommerce. Alibaba Group exhibited at this year's CES with five of their business units including YunOS, Ant Financial, TMall Global, Alibaba.com and AliCloud. The booth provided a glimpse into how Alibaba’s products are integrated into creating smart homes, smart cities and smart global solutions.
Ant Financial is focused on serving small and micro enterprises as well as consumers. They’re also helping incorporate VR and online payments into a whole new way of ecommerce by allowing consumers to experience an offline in-store experience from home while being able to pay for products directly through the VR experience. Imagine being able to walk through your favorite brick & mortar store and try out clothes and then pay for it all while sitting at home. It’s being done today in China, thanks to Ant Financial. In addition, they’re also helping consumers pay for merchandise at brick & mortar stores in a whole new way through AR or augmented reality. This is where your smartphone becomes an extension of your wallet, allowing you to simply scan as you place items in your cart and then purchase by simply smiling at checkout.
Alibaba Group’s booth showcased just how technology plays a huge role in each of their business units, including Alibaba.com, their leading wholesale marketplace for global trade. While the principals of Alibaba.com remain unchanged, they’re now using big data to help businesses connect with each other in a whole new way. From gaining visibility on potential margins to having the assurance of complete order protection, Alibaba.com is helping break the barriers of global trade and making it easy for anyone wanting to work directly with overseas manufacturers.
While there were, no new earth shattering product launches, overall this year’s CES delivered something for everyone. CES is no longer just about products, rather it’s about the technology behind those products that help us connect better.