A Personal Perspective on New Tech
Callouts from CES 2024
By Katy Gajewicz, Chief Strategy Officer & Alex Helfers, EVP, Head of Connected Experiences
It’s hard to believe, but it’s 2024. That puts us five years beyond the setting of the original Bladerunner, almost ten years past Back to the Future II, and just shy of the dystopian future from The Terminator. Of course, AI is no longer just a concept from the movies—it’s officially upon us. And it’s never been more apparent than at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
The future is and always has been uncertain, which makes it simultaneously scary, exciting, and inherently cool. Conversations from this year’s show ranged from smart home automation to 5G expansion, VR gaming to global health and startup disruptors to industry titans. Conference sessions showcased solutions—often turbocharged with AI—that could change the world. At the very least, those solutions will automate processes, synthesize information faster, and deliver incrementally more corporate value. But which new ideas and territories will push through the chromed bubble of tech-industry hype to truly spark and ignite with consumers?
At Laughlin Constable, we believe so whole-heartedly that the best new ideas connect on a personal level that it’s rooted in our agency positioning of making it personal. We’re not interested in the next wave-making headline unless we can understand how it will solve the correct problems, add useful value, and move hearts and minds. As a full-service agency, we pride ourselves on providing holistically considered perspectives, not just buzzy tech chatter. Ultimately, it’s not about the cool factor (though sometimes that stuff is hard to ignore)—it’s about what will help our brand partners form new connections with their consumers.
What brand innovations and new ideas do we think have unique potential to make those personal connections? We highlight just a few that, collectively, are making it personal in the way they either demonstrate their commitment to stand for something that resonates with consumers’ values, solve problems and business challenges by leveraging consumer-rich data, create utility in the context of cultural truths, or seem to have an ingrained ability to adapt to an ever-evolving consumer.
Ideas That Speak to a Brand’s Essence
Many CES ideas float through on a cloud composed solely of expectation and influence. But some ideas truly realize the promise of a brand or business. They are crisp, simple manifestations of everything the brand stands for, and of all the value it brings to the world. Here are the ideas from CES that stood out in this category:
With its pervasive penetration and wide-reaching audience impact, the beauty industry has an opportunity and a responsibility to make meaningful connections and differences. So, it was gratifying to see the beauty giant L’Oréal take center stage to talk about the role that sustainable, accessible and inclusive beauty tech plays in driving positive impact. Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L’Oréal Groupe, addressed the audience with a core message represented best in his words, “Technology is about more than just the devices in our pockets; technology is a tool to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges and make our world a better place to live.” In the context of one of the largest global tech conferences, this set the stage for brands to recognize their role in demonstrating why they exist, what they believe and what makes them unique to the consumers who come to love them.
The air we breathe and its impact on lung health is top-of-mind today. As such, indoor air quality innovation was a pervasive theme. Since 2008, Airthings has shown its commitment to the space and its results-driven ambition to improve consumers’ indoor environment through its innovation around air quality home monitors that measure indoor pollutants. At CES, it showed this commitment and continued innovation by introducing its first air purifier, the Renew. The Renew packs a HEPA 13 filter that removes 99.97% of particles and a high-performance carbon filter for eliminating gasses and odors from the air. With claims to clear 525 square feet within 10 minutes and a companion app that facilitates its DTC experience while keeping users informed about larger air quality issues and updates, this idea demonstrates how the brand is ‘all in’ on helping us all breathe easier.
In the accessibility space, we were struck by the fact that the Lotus Ring can be used to simplify the lives of anyone, but is particularly relevant to disabled individuals. Founder and CEO Dhaval Patel is an ex-Apple senior manager and electrical engineer who knows first-hand the realities of living with a disability. His company, Lotus, originates from a quest to solve human problems that are amplified but often overlooked among a population. To address the inconvenience and potential danger of people with disabilities having to move through an indoor environment, this wearable uses infrared light and magnetic switch covers to control lights, fans and other on-and-off gadgets. Negating the need to rewire existing electrical infrastructure, even at hotels or in rentals, the Lotus Ring is a small tech device that can make a big difference by making everyday travel through home and life accessible to all.
Ideas That Are Rooted in Consumer Realities
Often, marketing conversations are started by brands looking to generate buzz. Other times, however, conversations start with a listening ear to the consumer. This type of discussion is more empathetic and conducted to understand what consumers need and what their problems are. Then, the brand responds with something new that’s genuinely tailored to solving those problems. It creates an experience that is personalized and deeply personal—something with a human connection. Of course, at LC, we love brands who know what they are and say what they mean. But we also love brands who pause to listen to their customers and ensure they solve the correct problems. Here are a few more CES standouts that deserve a mention for the way they listened:
Answering a key pain point in EV adoption, Bosch seeks to facilitate more seamless experiences and overcome inconvenience through its automated valet charging test with Volkswagen subsidiary Cariad. Here’s how it works: In the parking garages where Cariad and Bosch are testing the automated system, you can alert the valet that your car needs charging. The automated valet directs your driverless car to a charging robot that automatically opens and accesses your charging port, charging the battery while you are away.
With three winter storms bookending this year’s CES conference, Eco-Flow’s timing of the introduction of its new battery backup system couldn’t be better. With the potential to power your home for weeks and an option to bundle with its Smart Home Panel 2 for data-driven energy conservation, this launch answers the anxiety today’s consumer feels amid weather systems we can’t control.
The pandemic supercharged our attention to our home and set off a flurry of activity that boosted categories including home improvement, home cooking and home efficiency. While, at first blush, it may seem like merely an innovation in grilling, we see Weber’s introduction of its smart gas grill as an answer to the intersection of several cultural shifts that have resulted in consumers investing more in creating at-home experiences. Thanks to Weber constantly keeping the consumer at the center, “BBQ enthusiasts” can continue to raise their grilling game.
Ideas That Create Utility You Can’t Do Without
We already have a world filled with powerful technology and connected devices. AI gives us the ability to supercharge that network through better and faster access to information where and when we need it, and the ability to integrate that information into our daily lives. In other words, it can help us start to regain more control over the chaos of life. Here are a few standouts that could soon become an indispensable part of our lives:
Named the R1, this pocket-sized gadget is a level-up from using your smartphone and its multiple apps to complete a task. This innovation does it all with one system that tackles your requests. And it doesn’t just learn through its AI large language capabilities, it learns visually with its “rabbit eye” camera. For example, if you show its camera how you order an item or make a reservation, it will be able to do the task without instruction next time around. As a startup brand, Rabbit seems to understand the meaning of the word “personal” within its personal assistant entry—no surprise, it’s already sold out from now until eternity.
Health tech was a big vertical this year, with brands introducing new avenues for consumers to help themselves achieve more significant health outcomes and, more importantly, prevent the worst. NuraLogix is doing just that with the introduction of their Anura Magic Mirror. This tablet-like device uses a camera to detect the blood flow activity under the surface of your face’s skin. An algorithm can then calculate critical vitals like hypertension, arrhythmia, or fever and then send them to your doctor for follow-up. In a world where early diagnosis and preventative action can be life-changing and even lifesaving, we loved seeing the integration of an everyday device into what can be an enlightening resource.
While there were many wearables for people, this smart pet tech seamlessly replaces a device pets already wear—a collar. Using sensors and AI, it can measure respiratory and heart vitals, detect atrial fibrillation (AFib), and track irregularities and warning signs in pet behaviors.
But on a deeper level, it expands the trend of AI-driven preventative care to help us extend the bond we have with our four-legged friends.
While these are just some examples from CES of brands we admire for how they’re using technology to make it personal, there are countless more. And when you look at them holistically, they help to illuminate how more technology can actually make personal experience brands feel even more personal instead of having the opposite effect.
Can something artificial really make things more personal?
We’ll leave you with a reference from The Billion Dollar Code limited series on Netflix. It's the story of how two young guys in 1990s Berlin laid the groundwork for what would later become known as Google Earth. For those who haven't seen it, we highly recommend watching the whole series (4 episodes). But in particular, we were struck by one part of the story as it relates to the power of technology to make human connections.
In Episode 1, our young entrepreneurs attend a Kyoto tech conference to reveal a first prototype of their product. While AT&T is dominating the attention, something happens to completely change the game: One individual wanders away from AT&T’s larger than life livestream of a concert and over to their stand. He starts to play with the prototype (an interactive globe), zooming in to find his hometown, and then the house where he was born. The engagement and excitement he shows attracts a crowd of other conference attendees who want to do the same thing. It explodes from there. And soon, everyone at the conference wants to visit their hometown … including the U.S. Secretary of State. It’s the power to go anywhere in the world, but each person used it to discover something personal to themself.
To us, this is a perfect example of how technology can make it personal, and it’s an example of the lens through which our view of this year’s CES sessions was experienced. We don’t know about you, but we love the way so many of the companies at this year’s conference showcased how AI and new tech, at their best, don’t just have to exist for the purpose of creating efficiencies and automating creativity. The solutions they power can be so much more powerful by being more personal.