Five technologies that are changing consumer electronics
Desi Aleksandrova, Marketing Communications Manager
March 12, 2019
In the fast-paced world of consumer electronics, new technologies are redefining the way we use our devices.
Take for example the mobile phone – what used to be a bulky device for simply making calls or sending messages more than ten years ago, has evolved into a sleek mini-computer that one can carry in their pocket.
Of course, smartphones are not the only consumer electronics that are undergoing fundamental changes – home appliances are becoming smart and better looking too, and even cars are turning into computers making them more akin to consumer electronics than just means of transportation.
We take a look at some of the disruptive technologies that are changing the face of consumer electronics.
While they continue to be subject to innovations, voice assistants are no longer a novelty. Using voice recognition and natural language processing, they react to voice commands and can perform different tasks, arguably making our lives easier. For example they can answer questions about tomorrow’s weather and perform actions like playing music, calling a friend or even purchasing a product. Many modern devices from smartphones and smart speakers to ovens and cars are now compliant with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. With smart speaker shipments having reached nearly 100 million units worldwide in 2018 it isn’t hard to imagine that voice assistants will become an integral part of the future smart home.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is expected to play a part in every aspect of our lives and consumer electronics is just one small segment that will benefit from it. With more and more consumers going digital, AI-powered homes and cars will allow them to connect intuitively with their environment while enjoying maximum convenience and comfort.
One example of how AI is used in consumer electronics was shown by Chinese company Hisense at CES. The company unveiled new TVs containing artificial intelligence chips which can detect what the viewer is watching and automatically improve the viewing experience. If, for example, they are watching sports, the motion rate is improved, while for a movie the surround-sound feeling is enhanced.
At MWC 2019 BMW has demonstrated how its Natural Interaction System makes interaction with the car’s system more intuitive. It reacts to gestures and gaze as well as voice. The volume, sunroof and air vents can be controlled by gesture and gaze (instead of voice) if a passenger is engaged in a conversation.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
VR and AR are two other technologies that will change the way we interact with our environment - 65 million VR and AR headsets are forecast to be sold in 2022 according to Statista. VR offers an entirely immersive experience and shuts off the real world, while AR adds digital elements to a real view making them look like they are actually there in the real world.
Microsoft HoloLens 2 made quite a splash at MWC 2019. Although it’s designed for workers, not consumers, it demonstrates what a mixed reality experience (both VR and AR) looks and feels like. The AI-enabled device uses holograms that can be moved around and controlled with gestures, voice and gaze, enabling the user to perform a variety of tasks.
A few companies today have developed apps that can be used with a VR headset to offer consumers the opportunity to explore things at their leisure and convenience – for example house hunting (e.g. Deltec Homes) or sight-seeing (e.g. Boulevard). And, of course, we should mention the gaming industry where VR headsets provide a truly immersive experience.
While VR and AR headsets are still to become more comfortable to wear they are remarkable pieces of technology and offer a glimpse into the future.
As a hardware technology, displays are very exciting as they are something we can see – which also makes them very important for any products design. It’s no surprise then that smartphones with folding screens were a hit at MWC this year. We saw some impressive examples by Samsung and Huawei of what foldable phones will look like. However, there are so many other consumer electronics that will benefit from flexible screens.
Screens bring a completely new experience, but most displays today are rectangular which sometimes means that the product design can be compromised. Home appliances and car interiors have many curved surfaces that can become ‘active’ if equipped with a display. Flexible display technologies like Organic LCD (OLCD) enable conformable and shapeable displays that seamlessly fit into the environment. Expect to see these displays as part of our smart homes and car interior.
Hailed as the next big thing in mobile internet connectivity, the so-called fifth generation network will enable faster and more pervasive connectivity, increasing the number of devices coming online. Although suppliers are just starting to roll out higher-speed 5G networks around the world, device manufacturers are already adopting the technology to differentiate themselves from competitors. While today 5G-enabled smartphones are on trend (with many announced at MWC 2019), self-driving cars and smart cities are anticipated to benefit from 5G in the future.
With so many technologies poised to have impact on consumer electronics, one thing is certain – the future won’t be boring.
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