By Andy Snyder, Director of Business Development
Since 1967, CES has been an initialism unchallenged — Consumer Electronics Show.
After a week of 20,000-plus steps a day, a few too many fruit-laden drinks and plenty of secondhand cannabis smoke, I propose a name change for CES. One that allows the event to keep its initials intact. How about Consumer Empathy Show? Or Customer Experience Show? I think either one of those would do well!
But why? Yes, electronics and tech are the most shimmering and bright signals of innovation in both product and consumer experience, and the evidence from CES is robust. However, empathetic design was on full display at the show, and not all the best concepts were borne out of tech alone. To help bite-size it for those who are ready to stop reading, here are a couple of the more interesting themes:
Design Thinking is Bringing Empathy to Products
For Deskey, applying empathy to every situation is critical, and seeing products that capture brilliant consumer-centered thinking at CES shows why.
- Brinks Home Security. From the fine folks who make those extra-secure trucks that transport piles of money, Brinks has added a dash of empathy to one of the more annoying parts of the day: opening the front door while your hands are full. How? By creating a handle that, when unlocked, opens either by pushing, pulling or rotating. Baby in your arms? No problem, push with your elbow. Bags of groceries tying up your hands? Not to worry, bump with your hip. Simple design with a big solution.
- Happiest Baby. Infant mortality and healthy babyhood are passion points for our team at Deskey, so much so that we’ve spent the last six-plus years spreading the word about safe sleep for babies through our client, Cradle Cincinnati. Cradle Cincinnati exists to help children grow up healthy — a problem that persists for children in lower-income environments. At CES, Happiest Baby shared a new product that’s built just for that purpose: a cradle that mimics both the gentle movements of mom’s rocking arms and the soothing feeling of her breath. This cradle promises to make sleep a peaceful and healthy time for all in the home, but more importantly, it provides parents with a tool to allow babies to sleep naturally, paving the path for a healthier upbringing.
- AfterShokz. Can I get an amen for bone conduction technology? I guess I better explain that one, first. AfterShokz has patented a set of headphones that eliminates the annoying need for earbuds and, more importantly, bypasses the delivery of sound — noise — through your eardrums. How? By placing the headphones on your cheekbones just outside your earlobe, natural vibrations send sound through the cheekbone and directly to the inner ear. This brand has brought empathy through design to solve some key problems. First, not all ears are meant for earbuds; heck, most aren’t. AfterShokz eliminates that issue. Second, parents no longer have to stress over the potential of their children being victims of hearing damage via earbuds. AfterShokz presents a safe option that still delivers rockin’ sound.
Empathy is as powerful as described! But I’d be remiss without giving a few shout-outs to some brands that are, in fact, using tech but in a way that promises to help the macro society rather than the micro consumer.
Macro-Innovation for Society
- John Deere. Yeah, seriously, the company that sells farm equipment. Did you know there is a national shortage of farmers? How do you help farmers feed the world when their workforce is shrinking? Bring in the new John Deere 8RX tractor. It provides AI, automation and real-time data analysis via a farmer-friendly dashboard that allows farmers to make better decisions and keep production on track. So farmers don’t need to man the ship and can learn, adjust, evolve and improve crop yields, planting seasons and the harvest process in general. Oh, sweet data!
- Formlabs. The 3D printing company that starred in the Netflix documentary Print the Legend came to CES to demonstrate how 3D printing can change the world. They displayed a fully 3D printed human endoskeleton to showcase the scale of change their innovation beckons for. Imagine a world where the concept of organ donation becomes obsolete? It’s a utopia that’s here!
- IBM. Of course, I had to mention IBM; after all, they coined the phrase “Let’s build a smarter planet.” So, IBM, quantum computing? A computer that processes exponentially more data and draws faster conclusions. A computer that studies how nature works and how chemical components in nature interact. This means the idea of building a smarter planet can be aided by data synthesized in a quantum computer, creating more authentic results that can empower medical innovation, transportation systems and engineering processes.
If you feel inspired and excited then good! That’s the same energy I felt each day leaving the show floor. If, however, you feel that we’re closer than ever to what Sara Connor feared most in Terminator, namely, that we’re on an unstoppable path to machine dominance, you may very well be right.
Either way, be it through empathy or empathy + tech, these great innovations have come out of understanding the challenges human beings face day to day.
Perhaps CES 2050 will be run by the machines, and in that case, we can always retreat to the wilderness.