NEXT CES 2022

And just like that, CES has come and gone. It always feels a bit frenetic at first and usually, for me at least, takes a few days if not weeks for the chaos of what I saw to translate into meaningful thoughts that I can apply back at the day job. 

This year was a little harder though. Like many companies, we decided to cancel our travel at the last minute and participate in the event from afar. And while I can’t complain about sitting in the comfort of my own home madly scouring every tech blog and tweet coming out of CES, I was starting to fret that maybe we were missing something by not being there. 

A lot of the headlines and innovations this year felt incremental, and in many ways, practical. This was partly driven by the fact that many big tech companies that usually bring a bit of future magic dust to the event pulled out. But it just felt like the majority of big news items this year were updates on previously announced innovations. For example, NVIDIA’s Omniverse — a new platform for creators to collaboratively build virtual worlds — was originally introduced in late 2020, but the new news at CES is that it’s coming out of beta. It was a similar vibe on the hardware side. For example, your connected home is now more intelligent with integrated AI and also just became more open, with systems like Matter. Even 3D printers are back but now 40% faster. 

 At first, it left me hungry for some of the weird and wacky innovations that stretch our imagination of new possibilities, but by the end of CES I grew more comfortable with the fact that a lot of what we saw was familiar. Two years of the pandemic have forced so much change that we have accelerated the hype cycle. We’ve closed the gap between NOW and NEXT and are already living in our future-vision of our not-too-distant past. It will be interesting to see if a gap starts to form again, or do we now move in lockstep with this pace of change? 

But enough musing. Back to the day job. As part of NEXT — our global innovation platform at TBWA — we have deciphered all the signals from CES this year and mapped them against some of the bigger shifts we believe will shape the future of brand experience.  

Inclusive by Design 

Inclusivity isn’t a checkbox, it’s a form of design thinking. It’s the act of creating equity by eliminating exclusion in our products and experiences. While there’s still a long way to go, we saw companies re-imagine or revamp their products and experiences to serve a more diverse audience.  

Three signals of this:Waverly Labs Subtitles — Double-sided touchscreens with automated language translation. More here.OrCam MyEye — Attachable device for glasses that can recognize and read out printed text for the visually impaired. More here.LG TV — LG’s Magic Remote with enhanced accessibility for people with physical, developmental or cognitive disorders. More here.

Inclusive by Design

Liquid Reality 

Our physical world is converging with the virtual realm, creating a new shared reality, and upending old ways of living, earning, and connecting. As the Metaverse hype reaches a fever pitch, we’re seeing a focus on making it a reality, from hardware and infrastructure to open software systems for creators.

Three signals of this:Mojo Vision — Contact lenses with a built-in display and AR. More here.Samsung NFT TV — Browse, buy, sell and display NFTs on your TV. More here.Nvidia Omniverse — Bringing hardware and software into one platform for creators, designers, and engineers to build virtual worlds. More here.

Liquid Reality

Everything Connected 

The Internet of Things is (slowly) becoming a reality, fundamentally changing how our devices, wearables and utilities interact with each other. The trend of adding AI and connectivity into every mundane object may be comical to some, but it signals a deeper desire for more convenience, control, and autonomy in our daily lives.

Three signals of this:Zerema Smart Pillow — Improving your good-night’s sleep through AI. More here.Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge — Yes, the smart fridge is back! This time more colorful. And with food monitoring and an automatic ordering system, it just might be the final piece in the connected home puzzle. More here.Matter Smart System — An open system that connects all your home smart devices. More here.

Everything Connected

Untethered Audio 

We continue to see innovation within one of the oldest forms of media. More and more, consumers are opting for audio-first experiences that offer a reprieve from screen time. Audio continues to be a staple in our content diet and new tech is allowing it to be an ever-present part of our lives, creating new opportunities for brands to imagine engaging screen-less experiences. 

 Three signals of this: Mind Controlled Earbuds — Monitoring brainwaves through sensors and AI, allowing using to control their devices. More here.Soundcore Frames — Audio focused smart glasses that offer an immersive open-ear audio experience. More here.Jooki Speaker — An audio device for kids to interact via tokens and figurines rather than screens. More here.

Untethered Audio

Climate Credit 

Sustainability was the springboard for innovation this year as consumers demand more climate-positive solutions from brands. We saw brands empower consumers to make more sustainable choices and saw entirely new materials that seek to solve wicked problems.

Three signals of this:N.THING Cube — Decentralized vertical farming solution for cities, designed to reduce reliance on the earth’s resources. More here.Active Sensor Tag — Biodegradable paper-based alternative to small cell batteries. More here.Powerfoyle — Self-charging material that replaces the need for batteries. More here.

Climate Credit

Optimized Anatomy 

A desire for control has us taking biology into our own hands. A growing category is helping people hack their way to a healthier, smarter, younger version of themselves. This year we saw wearables and connected devices go beyond quantifying and tracking our lives and move towards actively optimizing our anatomy and performance. 

Three signals of this: Lingo — Continuous glucose monitoring device for athletes, going beyond the traditional use for diabetes. More here.Gx Sweat Patch — Wearable patch that monitors sweat and lets you know when to rehydrate. More here.Withings Body Scan — At-home, full-body health monitor with connected app for data insights. More here.

Optimized Anatomy

Accessible Robotics 

A once distant promise is now a reality. The world of autonomous robots and task-oriented assistants is becoming more accessible and realistic. Every year at CES we see a wave of new robotic concepts and sci-fi dreams, but this time around we saw a focus on practical use cases and modular hardware systems.

Three signals of this:BathBot – Personalized bath bombs based on individual EG brain data. More here.The Retriever – A robotic, voice-controlled butler to help those with mobility limitations around the house. More here.Essentials – Modular building block system for the accessible creation of autonomous robots. More here.

Accessible Robotics

DIY at home 

DIY went from a choice to a necessity over the last two years. Pre-COVID it was driven by frugality and a desire to live more sustainably but now, after two years of living with the pandemic, we’re seeing more systemic behavior change setting in. Brands are democratizing their offerings and turning to new tech applications to embrace this change. Especially when it comes to personal health and self-care. 

DIY at home
Three signals of this:

L’Oreal Color Sonic — The at-home hair coloring device taking the mess and hassle out of hair coloring. More here

Pixicade — Turning handmade drawings into playable mobile games. More here.

Formlabs 3D Printer — 40% faster printing time for greater prototyping and more creativity. More here.

These eight shifts show us that the future is much closer than ever before. Our imagination and reality have caught up. It’s no longer just about innovation, it’s about acceleration. We need to put some urgency on what’s in our innovation and R&D pipeline in order to achieve what’s NEXT, now. 

Shout out to the brilliant minds involved in helping pull this thinking together: Matthew MoranCharlotte HuntleyRenata YannoulisAnaka KobzevTaylor WilliamsDana ForsSkyler Hubler and Rohit Thawani.