Takeaways from CES 2023

January 19, 2023
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We asked Patrick Madden, ChangeUp’s Retail Technology Strategist, to share his takeaways from CES 2023.

As the pinnacle annual event for the tech industry, gadget-gurus, and futurists alike, CES has emerged as the global stage for innovation. Best known for showcasing breakthrough consumer technologies, CES is often overlooked by those in the retail industry—and largely for good reason; the dazzling displays of flying cars and humanoid robots don’t easily translate into actionable strategies that can move the needle for their business.

While the technology world has long been divided into distinct “consumer” and “enterprise” ecosystems, nowadays, it’s clear that a third blended area exists in between. Traditional consumer technologies like smartphones, virtual reality devices, and even personal vehicles, have all radically transformed the ways consumers interact with brands. As a result, retailers must now have a thorough grasp of all relevant channels their customers may be trying to connect with them through. That deep understanding of the end-to-end digital customer journey is what sets modern brands apart from their predecessors.

Among the hundreds of exhibitors, keynotes, and press releases, a few key themes and products stood out to us from the rest.

Travel-tainment

The role of the car is transforming in this increasingly digital age and startups are completely re-imagining foundational elements of our day-to-day routines. One of the most interesting is Holoride, which uses their device to transform mundane car-rides into digitally integrated and immersive virtual reality journeys.

As the result of a joint venture, Sony and Honda shared their prototype electric car of the future, codenamed Afeela (yeah, don’t even get us started on the name!). The vehicle, which is expected to utilize self-driving technologies, features an interior covered with large screens and gaming capabilities intended to keep occupants digitally connected and entertained during their journey.

Taking it one step further, BMW also introduced a new concept car, Dee, which completely removes all screens, dials, and controls in favor of a HUD (head-up display) projected directly onto the windshield. The concept offers an exceptionally unique mixed reality experience that can bring digital content into the driving experience in ways we’ve never seen before.

A Realistic Metaverse

2022 was a hot year in the media for the Metaverse, but we really didn’t see many ground-breaking use cases for the technology. That’s on track to change this year, as attractive and practical use cases begin to emerge across the tech scene.

LG announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Oorbit, a platform that provides access to virtual worlds and experiences. Through the partnership, LG will bring immersive digital experiences to life through their televisions, effectively placing a portal to the metaverse in the living rooms of millions of households. Plus, unique concepts like a haptic feedback shirt from OWO, or the AromaPlayer from Japanese firm Aromajoin, promise to level-up digital experiences through new dimensions of touch and smell.

With continuing advances in virtual and augmented reality technologies, the Metaverse is about to become a much more attainable reality in 2023.

An Augmented Reality

Following last year’s heavy emphasis on virtual reality headsets, this year’s show pivoted towards advancements in augmented reality.

Several devices are expected to reach the consumer markets this year—from major tech-players like Magic Leap, TCL, and HTC to smaller startups like Lumus and XRAI, all demoing their vision for the future of… vision… Devices continue to take on slimmer forms—most resembling a normal pair of sunglasses—while also adding higher-resolution displays, offering a blank canvas for high-fidelity digital experiences on-the-go. With industry visionaries like Apple rumored to enter the AR space in the coming months, it’s clear we’re amid major innovation and the future for wearable AR devices is no longer a distant dream.

The implications of tech advancements are undoubtedly exciting, yet often daunting for those in the retail space. Making sense of what’s the next big thing is a constantly evolving formula, especially considering the majority of tech startups fail commercially. A new addition to this year’s show, the “Gallery of Flops” serves as a reminder that technology is not a linear journey. Now, more than ever, it’s critical for retailers to rapidly identify, evaluate, and test emerging technologies that will help move the needle for their business while differentiating their offering in a crowded marketplace.

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