Surrounded by the Las Vegas glitz, CES provides an early glimpse into the trends likely to shape technology, business, and society in the years to come. Though often seen as solely consumer-focused, the annual gathering features technology relevant to a much wider swath of business, and this year’s conference was no different. Below are our three key takeaways around the announcements made at CES 2020.
1. AI Is Becoming More Human-like
Despite the prevalence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives, AI, as imagined by the science fiction writers of yesteryear (think Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot), is still hidden over the horizon. However, CES 2020 featured one product that hews closer toward humanoid AI than anything else to date. Samsung’s Neon chatbot takes human form through a digital avatar and expresses a range of human emotions. For that reason, Samsung refers to it as an “artificial human” and not as artificial intelligence. We’ve written extensively about customers preferring both human-centric customer service interactions and self-service options, and Neon may offer the potential to seamlessly fulfill these dueling desires. In the workplace, Neon could eventually serve as confidante, advisor, or even receptionist. Of course, its real-world deployment is still some time away, but given its potential, the technology is worth keeping an eye on.}
2. Virtual Reality Is Advancing in Quality and Moving to the Enterprise
Virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) isn’t new technology and its applications are limited thus far. Plus, failures like Google Glass give plenty of ammunition to pundits who deem AR/VR tech vastly overrated. However, looking at the wealth of AR/VR activity at CES 2020, it’s clear that the space still carries both consumer and enterprise promise. In healthcare, for example, Mieron VR announced a neurotherapy headset that disguises rehabilitation exercises as games to make a painful process more fun and thus more effective. The company joins a host of other healthcare-focused AR/VR companies at CES 2020, many of whom focus on the visualization of biometric data. In the enterprise space, companies announced a number of business-focused AR/VR headsets that encourage collaboration and integration of the digital and physical worlds. These headsets are particularly useful for employee training and upskilling — two critical needs in light of the skills gap that exists in numerous industries — by allowing life-like simulations of difficult scenarios. The point of all this? VR/AR is evolving at a slower pace than previously predicted, but maturation is occurring. Companies would be foolish to ignore the impact it may have on both operations and employee training.
3. The Digital Workplace Is a Reality
This one should shock no one, but it bears repeating: the digital workplace is a reality. The sheer number of products, sessions, and keynotes around the topic at CES 2020 confirm that much. One technology that was top of mind for everyone at this year’s conference? Intelligent automation, as it is already impacting employees across industries. Smart displays played a key role as well, with the Klaxoon Teamplayer and Dell Touch Monitor both taking center stage during the show. These innovations and other cutting-edge technologies continue to remake the workplace, and companies must holistically evaluate their existing processes and operations in light of such advancements. Often, what matters more than the technology deployed is the culture it enters, and so as we look forward to future CES conferences, it’s important to remember that products rely on the people who use them. In other words, our final takeaway from CES 2020 is that the best, most useful technologies are those that augment employees and unleash creative and innovative thinking.
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