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CES 2024 Roundup: Highlights to Keep Your Product Leadership Competitive

Photo by Cristiano Firmani / Unsplash

Didn't make it to CES? Here are the top 5 innovations from the showroom floor.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is always an incredible start to each year for technology, with tech makers from around the world coming together in Las Vegas to give us all a glimpse into the future. Some of the cutting-edge tech seemed more like science fiction, whereas other exhibits appeared very ready for the down-to-earth consumer to use.

AI dominated the exhibit floor, across auto, shopping, and electronics, in places you'd expect, like automotive voice assistants and translation devices, and some you might not expect, like meat thermometers and vacuums. Although AI is changing the face of technology, when not used thoughtfully, AI integration can come across as more of an afterthought than a useful feature. However, it's hard for companies to resist the "AI in everything" trend.

"You don't want to show up at the costume party in plain clothes, right? Everyone's going to be there saying AI. You're probably going to look like a fool if you don't."

—Dipanjan Chatterjee, Principal Analyst, Forrester

Given our extensive work in UX research and product design and our understanding of AI, Pulse Labs is uniquely positioned to help you understand when, where, and how to leverage AI in a way that adds value to your user experience, product leadership, and your business.

Contact us to start a conversation about building AI into your product in meaningful ways.

Keep reading for a look at top innovations to watch and thoughts from the Pulse Labs team on the trade show overall.

Top 5 CES Innovations to Watch

After taking stock of last week's lineup in Las Vegas, here are our votes for top five CES tech announcements to watch. These products or features appear to move both technology and user experience forward in meaningful ways.

  1. Walmart's AI-powered InHome Replenishment, a feature that does your shopping for you so you never run out of “milk” again: Walmart's new Generative AI feature will create a personalized algorithm for Walmart+ users that will deliver essentials exactly when needed. In concept, it will adjust over time based on actual use and order patterns, unlike existing subscription-based refill models. The orders will be automatically placed, but customers can make adjustments at any time. 

  1. Volkswagen's embedded ChatGPT, a significant improvement to in-vehicle voice assistants: The new version of Cerence's Chat Pro leverages a LLM from Open AI which will roll out to vehicles in Europe in Q2. Volkskwagen sees this as an enhancement to their voice assistant, providing more vehicle-specific information, better ability to clear up questions, and more enriching conversations. Cerence CEO Stefan Ortmanns said the two companies will “explore collaboration to design a new, large language model (LLM)-based user experience as the basis of Volkswagen’s next-generation in-car assistant.” Subscribe to our newsletter to be among the first to receive a research report on AI and automotive from Pulse Labs IQ, coming soon!

  1. TimeKettle X1 Interpreter Hub, an AI-enabled device for real-time translations across multiple languages and people: TimeKettle reports that this device leverages AI integration for highly accurate, real-time translation into 40 languages. It includes a screen that shows the transcriptions of your conversations, and 2 earbuds for one-to-one conversations. You can sync multiple devices to allow real-time translation for up to 20 people and 5 different languages.

  1. BMW's AirConsole, an in-vehicle gaming experience to help you fill your free time: The infotainment screen app will allow vehicle occupants to control casual games using their smartphones. This is a new way to pass time while waiting for school pickup or charging your EV. This includes the launch of "Beach Buggy Racing 2," with plans for more games to be added over time.

  1. Dr. Tail, an online live chat veterinary service to keep your pet in top shape, day or night: With the rise of pet lovers in the US, Dr. Tail is poised to help animal parents keep their furry friends in top health. The app allows owners to chat via text with vets, or schedule a live call to virtually examine a sick animal. This is an innovative approach to veterinary care that meets pent-up consumer demand and makes the experience of caring for a pet more convenient than ever.

Pulse Labs Live From Las Vegas

Two members of the Pulse Labs team, Matthew Calamatta, Director of Product Management and Andrew Farrell, Director of Program Management, attended CES. Here are their thoughts around what stood out and what it means for this year in tech:

Both of you have been to CES before. What was new or different about this year's event?

Matthew: Increased presence from China was good to see after Covid put a dent in their attendance numbers. What was new is also what was old: the AI hype cycle from about 5 years ago is bigger, better and louder. Unbridled enthusiasm is what I would call it.

Andrew: There are always new things to see and marvel at each year at CES. What remains reassuringly consistent is the value of meeting with people in-person to share perspectives and insights. It's the best way to connect the dots and understand what is really happening in tech today.

What was one thing you saw that made you say "I want to have that NOW"?

Matthew: A new beer brew-kit from iGulu, which looks like it produces decent brews. A few years ago I was enamored with the PicoBrew, which sadly has been discontinued. It will be interesting to see the business model for this new one, which seems to involve a pouch of supplies. Echoes of the Juicero? I hope not. As ever with these devices, the risk is that the manufacturer decides to disengage and you’re left with a fairly expensive gadget that may or may not survive.

Oh, and if I had a spare 5K to hand, these delightful smart binoculars from AX Visio help identify bird species based on your geolocation and visual recognition, all done on-device.

Andrew: LG’s transparent OLED TV was definitely the coolest toy I saw. At a more realistic price tag, the Clip-on IPhone QWERTY physical keyboard is something I would regularly use. 

I also enjoyed the demo from the PawPort team, and wondered if it would be smart enough to detect if my cats were bringing unwanted prey with them into the house and block entry.  

Did you attend any panels or presentations you found particularly insightful? If so, what were the key takeaways?

Matthew: A talk by the AARP AgeTech Collaborative on digital equity for aging populations. It covered how to make tech inclusive, accessible, and life-enriching for older users, which impacts how we should be thinking about AI, wearables, mobile apps, voice assistants, and all the rest of technology.

Andrew: Walmart’s keynote included a guest speaker slot from Satya Nadella to discuss the collaboration between Microsoft and Walmart. Using Open AI on Azure this is a genuine value add use case showing how an AI integration can transform the supply chain management for one of the world’s largest retailers. This is very different from the “AI” pillow that detects when you’re snoring. 

We all agree the application of AI will be transformative, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be “touched by the hand of AI.” As a consumer I think it is more likely that the benefits of AI will be felt more indirectly, like Walmart knowing when we’re about to run out of milk or cat food, rather than our AI toothbrush scheduling our next dental check up.   

Did you see anything at CES that made you feel optimistic or concerned about the future of technology?

Matthew: has a novel, industry-aware approach to IoT. They're providing a standards-agnostic connectivity platform that provides a plug-and-play solution for anyone developing connected devices or IOT solutions. It covers everything from Sears refrigerators to oil field sensors. This looks like a promising way to tackle IOT at scale and make it easier for hardware and software folks to develop across multiple platforms. Given that IoT has long suffered from being a marketing term that meant everything and nothing, and the persistent complexities of building and maintaining real-world systems, this is a promising development.

Andrew: Two thoughts here:

  1. This may be a reflection of where I spent my time rather than a true reflection of exhibitors and wider market trends, but green and environmental tech were not as prominent as in years past. Hopefully this is just a blip, with investment and innovation into this pressing global issue continuing apace. 
  2. Ultimately CES is a mega consumer marketing event. Walking the show floor was a reminder that the central premise of the Pulse Labs platform “putting the user at the center of your product” is not a conscious act for all tech companies. As a result, I was often confused about the true value of something. When companies do put the user and their needs at the center of their thinking, the value of doing so shines through. So I'm optimistic that Pulse Labs has plenty of value to offer the market.  

The tech on display at CES has the whole Pulse Labs team excited for the innovations and user experience improvements coming for technology and our customers this year! We can't wait to see what you and your team build, and are happy to talk with you about ways to help you drive your product leadership forward. 

Want to learn more about the tools we use for our research and how they can help you power your product design and user experience?

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