The Consumer Electronics Show is always a special little dot on our Google calendars. For a few days every January, swarms of journalists and fluttering camera shutters pull back the veil on the year's unseen devices, and re-energise all those age-old discourses about humanity's changing relationship with technology.
This year was no different, with the 53-year-old convention attracting around 4,500 companies and 170,000 attendees to the 11 venues in Vegas. From 3D printing and sustainability to accessibility, wearables and robotics, the world's largest tech trade show dazzled once again with key innovations across all major categories.
For many industry leaders, the show is as much a stomping ground to parade magical gadgets as it is a platform to explore both the merits and discords of the industry as it stands, and to position one's brand in response to some timeless questions. What do humans need from technology in order to flourish? What's the future of our co-dependent relationship with it? Is the rate of change sustainable?
Speaking during the company's keynote address, Samsung Consumer Electronics Division President and CEO H.S. Kim heralded the new decade as the 'Age of Experience', with innovation driven by a shift in consumer expectations. Tech users are not looking to spend money "on things", he said, but on "convenience, peace of mind and enjoyment. We are looking to experience life."
With this in mind, the next ten years are set to see a more nuanced approach to development, both reflecting and activelyshaping the marriage of lifestyle and technology in our daily routines. The keynote explored the use of smart engineering in megacities and AI-powered living areas, with the smart home reimagined as the 'intelligenthome', filled with connected, proactive solutions including a robotic cooking assistant.
There was also much talk about the potential of home-based, virtual cardiac rehabilitation programme HeartWise and GEMS (Gait Enhancing & Motivating System) as gamechangers in the fields of health, mobility and recovery. With AR glasses, simulated personal trainers and environments, the future sees us trekking the Himalayas or walking underwater while our pets watch us, four feet away on the living room sofa.
This is not to conflate enhanced digital immersion with a higher quantity of products, however. As Federico Casalegno, Head of Samsung Design Innovation Center said: "The goal isn't to add more devices, but to enable us to live better with more powerful, intuitive and simplified technologies."
It's this idea of "living better" that sits at the core of the Age of Experience philosophy. With the widespread availability of constantly evolving products and services, consumers have the ability to design – and reinvent – their digital habits and lifestyles at any time. With that freedom comes tremendous potential, and in applications we may not have yet envisioned. It also foregrounds the value of personalisation and adaptability in the technology of the future. "One size fits all is no longer the answer," Chief Research Scientist of Samsung Research Sebastian Seung stated. "We are all seeking solutions that treat us as individuals."
Nothing more perfectly epitomised this shift in priorities, from technology that obeys, to intelligence that actively seeks, learns and intuits our needs, than domestic robot Ballie. The chirpy yellow roller uses AI to bridge the gap between reactive smart home scheduling from the likes of Bixby routines to independent smart home management and even socialisation. The demonstrations at CES showed Ballie setting up the home to start the day, recognising and cleaning mess, sending photos of the dog and helping elderly citizens connect.
What comes to mind when we think about technology? What do we feel? Our maps when lost, our lifelines in emergencies, and filled with our photos, contacts and memories, our devices are already intensely personal objects, with which we form emotional bonds. As they gain more agency in the Age of Experience, will we come to see them as companions, rather than assistants?