CES Insights

Day 1: cars, computers, avatars, faux pork

The most amazing carnival of light, sound, language, culture and vision has, once again, started in Las Vegas. CES is wonderful, dreadful, productive, superfluous, exciting and exhausting. It is a force of the industry, a bellweather of world economy and culture, and the central meeting point for a large percentage of the world’s business people. The annual question for participants and bystanders alike is, “What do I really need to know about CES this year?” Let me offer some assistance over the next few days.

Day 1 is complete and there is plenty to talk about…

Neon virtual humans. Neon is a company hatched from an R&D incubator of Samsung, called STAR. The company has developed human looking virtual assistants. These things are images on a screen, not 3D objects, with the capabilities to sound and act like humans, remembering what you talked about a few minutes ago. CNET

dis-rup-shun: So it appears that Neon has upped the game on chat bots. When we need technical support, or perhaps a restaurant reservation, we may be speaking to an attractive human looking image that remembers our preferences, the usual number in our party, or other personalized facts. Expect better and more pleasant customer support, and expect it to be harder to find a real person to speak with when we need to get to a decision maker. Some great applications are using Neons as teachers of virtual courses, like learning French. Neons may become bank tellers, acting pleasant while nearby machines dispense cash. My sympathies to the cold callers looking for decision makers at the corporate front desk.

Foldable computers. Many, including Dell and Lenovo, or showing a concept computer that is essentially a screen that folds and displays in many ways: a big continuous display, one screen is a keyboard while the other is a display, split screens that fold like a book with virtual pages. The manufacturers have created apps that tell Windows 10 how to use multiple displays. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Will this technology change the form factor of the laptop? Chances are unlikely that the laptop, which now for over 20 years has remained a clam shell, will change drastically. If a screen can function as a solid, productive keyboard, then we could be looking at a clam shell with two screens that can be twisted and turned based on the application. We could also expect that the back of the display is a screen, so people can watch our presentation on one side of the computer while we take notes on the other. This will take a while to evolve, but has interesting possibilities.

Sustainable electric vehicles: The auto section of CES is a show in itself, and Lyft autonomous cars are actually maneuvering through one of the most congested cities to ferry people to the event, but of note is Fisher’s “most sustainable SUV.” The electric SUV seeks to undercut Tesla and, at less than $38,000 with capacity to drive over 200 miles, it appears interesting. The attractive Fisker Ocean is supposed to be available at the end of 2021. The company boasts that its components are highly eco-friendly with full-length solar roof, recycled carpeting (from where?), a vegan interior textiles that are “eco-suede”, and rubber components made of byproducts of tire production.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: While credit for popularizing electric vehicles goes to Musk, Fisher may get the credit for making recycled materials important to car manufacturing. Re-using the massive amounts of discarded materials in manufacturing makes sense, and if it is a badge of honor to buy new things made of recycled parts, then we are all better off. Ford, GM, Toyota — look out for the eco-friendly manufacturing trend.

Impossible Pork is on the grill: The makers of the Impossible Burger, all plant substitute for meat are back at CES with a pork substitute. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Understanding that meat lovers will continue to be meat lovers, Impossible Sausage will enable us to continue our culinary habits while lowering our cholesterol and easing the burdens on the earth of raising and processing livestock. We will watch the market drivers for plant-based meat substitutes, and see if acceptance (assuming it occurs) will be based on health concerns or environmental responsibility. Given that SUVs are still the leading auto category sold in the U.S., early theories are that health concerns will be the market drivers for manufactured meats.

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