7 Pieces of Tech From CES to Keep an Eye On

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, held last week in Las Vegas, was a wonderland of next-generation craziness, some useless gadgets, other useful gadgets, and more and more hardware vanishing into the cloud. The challenge, as always at the gigantic gathering, was sorting through the clutter, especially for advertisers looking for hints about what the future might hold. At CES, new media are really, really new, and recent media are getting richer and richer. “You don’t leave here and say, ‘Wow, I need to go from a one-page [magazine ad] to a full spread,’” cracks Starcom USA CEO Lisa Donohue. Yet for advertisers, she adds, “you can’t get awed by the technology” because it might just prove to be of little use in reaching consumers.

Indeed, advertisers are looking not only for what is shiny and new here, but also what connects to consumers in a different way. Sony president/CEO Kazuo Hirai said in a keynote address that emotional engagement is the next step for technologists eyeing a mass audience. Donohue agrees: “Empathy is important. Say you’ve got something that can tell that it’s raining where you are—it can offer to sell you an umbrella, but it can also know that rain makes you sad and offer you a Rice Krispies Treat.”

The best devices on display this year aspired to integrate more seamlessly into the lives of consumers versus gasp-worthy technology of years past. (Though they debut to worshipful appreciation in Vegas, many products fail to live up to the hype. Remember 3-D TV?) We scoured the Las Vegas Convention Center and The Venetian hotel for tech with new, unusual or just plain cool ad applications—finding a few things you’ve never seen before along with others you’re going to be seeing a lot more of very soon.


iOptik contact lens

What: The iOptik contact lens
Why care: Yes, this is real now. Innovega makes a contact lens, the iOptik, that features a tiny, thin sheet of reflective material in it that can take a projected image from a pair of glasses. It doesn’t have a microprocessor in it (yet—Intel’s new SD card-size motherboard has a processor that’s 22 nanometers long), but you can indeed watch television on your eyeball.
Why worry: You think consumers balk at invasive ads now?


BMW i3

What: The BMW i3 partnership with Samsung
Why care: BMW let Samsung in the door last year when it made operating systems in its models compatible with Android. Now, the autos will work with the Galaxy Gear wristwatch and sundry other Samsung peripherals, as well as its phones. Think Knight Rider, only real.
Why worry: “Forgive me, your honor. It was just a really engaging ad and I failed to notice the stop sign.”


Sen.se Mother WiFi tracker

What: The Sen.se Mother WiFi tracker
Why care: Need to make sure the kids brushed their teeth? The Mother will text you if little Johnny doesn’t pick up that toothbrush, or if grandma doesn’t pick up her heart meds. A single Mother can manage 24 individual tasks via little “cookies”—providing a gold mine of consumer data.
Why worry: It’s not foolproof. After all, who really likes to floss?


Reebok CheckLight

What: The Reebok CheckLight under-helmet hat
Why care: Personal medical data is to be prized and hoarded. So is personal safety. The CheckLight provides both. Say a football player gets hit in the head. Whether or not he has the “I should sit down” knocked out of him, the CheckLight will let coach know if he is really ready to go back on the field.
Why worry: Monetizing medical information is a dicey proposition.


Samsung curved OLED TV monitors

What: Samsung curved OLED TV monitors
Why care: Can you say “out-of-home”? Expect these awesome monsters to pop up from department store windows to sports arenas once they hit the market. For the really big spender, LG features OLED screens that go from flat to curved at the press of a button.
Why worry: The 105-inch flatscreen from last year’s CES went for (sitting down?) $69,000.


Wellograph watch

What: The Wellograph watch
Why care: It is the least goofy-looking of the heart-rate monitor watches, sporting a tasteful display that tracks the user’s heart rate, the number of steps he’s taken and other vital information, and potentially delivers that information to marketers. It also tells time.
Why worry: Again, consumers may not want to part with such information.


The Panasonic Avionics

What: The Panasonic Avionics first-class seat for American Airlines
Why care: A high-median-income consumer in a relaxed, comfortable—and captive—environment. What more could a marketer ask for? This booth at CES re-created the whole setup, complete with booth bunnies dressed as American Airlines flight attendants.
Why worry: Serving ads to people who’ve plunked down thousands of bucks for a first-class seat could be a delicate prospect.

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