CES 2015: 11 Peeks Into The Future - InformationWeek

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1/10/2015
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Thomas Claburn
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CES 2015: 11 Peeks Into The Future

Motorized skates, 3D-printed food, e-socks: The future, whether we need it or not, is here.
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After a brief visit to CES 2015 earlier this week, I returned home to San Francisco laden with product flyers and ambivalence. It's difficult to not be awestruck by the scale and spectacle of the event. But it's also hard to ignore the limits of technology, the incremental pace of innovation, and the banal, often cynical, commercialism of the event.

I went to Las Vegas hoping the world has finally risen to the idealism of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. I left convinced we've gotten lost in Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Ford CEO Mark Fields addressed the gap between technology and reality in his keynote speech. He asked how many people in the audience found it easy to get around Las Vegas during the show. Few did. He observed that while attendees have to put up with congested roads and crowds for a few days, the 18 million inhabitants of Mumbai, India -- with a population density 17 times greater than Las Vegas -- deal with overcrowding all the time.

"Henry Ford believed that a good business makes excellent products and earns a healthy return," said Fields. "But he proved a great business does all that while creating a better world... We're driving to be both a product and a mobility company and, ultimately, to help change the way the world moves."

Ford aspires to be something more than a car company. Clearly, Fields sees the challenge of trying to sell cars in a city that's standing-room only. That's a rather far-sighted act of corporate reinvention, one well suited to a world that will see the number of megacities -- population 10 million or more -- rise from 28 today to 41 by 2030.

Although many companies declare their benevolence, Ford's mission statement at least aspires to something more specific and measurable than "Don't be evil." Cars not only contribute to pollution and congestion but sometimes kill people when driven poorly. To the extent that Ford and other automakers succeed in automating transportation, making it safer through technology, and making it more sustainable in densely populated areas, we all benefit.

Whether the Internet of Things represents the same sort of pro-social innovation isn't as obvious. Certainly there's something intriguing about the prospect of an automated home, but there's also something sinister, not to mention pathetic. Do we really need our houses to become panopticons that broadcast data to cloud service providers so we can turn off the lights and adjust the heating from afar? Does automation have a cost we underestimate?

Whether or not we need ubiquitous sensors and services to watch over us, they're being developed and offered, and some of us find them compelling. There's something to be said for smartphone-driven home security without a monthly monitoring fee.

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever." You could also spark your imagination by wandering the exhibition floor at CES. At least you'd see some scenes that inspired hope, while having a few laughs along the way. What follows is a glimpse of what the future will bring.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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nasimson
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nasimson,
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1/16/2015 | 11:41:19 AM
Re: some great stuff
 @Ariella @Pedro:

Or even worse, a texting refrigerator that texts you when something inside goes rotten, smelly and unbearable for the refrigerator.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
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1/14/2015 | 11:56:23 AM
Re: some great stuff
@ariella. lol. that is really funny. I asked my mom whether she would buy a evacuum.  She started to laugh
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
1/13/2015 | 1:30:38 PM
Re: some great stuff
<Otherwise, what will be next? a toaster that will send a person a text when the toasts are ready.  >[email protected] That's actually more uselful than some of the suggestions I've seen like having a "smart" vacuum that lets you know when it's on.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
1/13/2015 | 12:51:15 PM
Re: some great stuff
@ Ariella. I completely agree. It seems they are living a world different from the rest of us.  I think there is a huge gap between current problems where there is a potential to make money and the problems they are proposing to solve. I hope they learn from their mistakes and work on their market research strategies prior to releasing new technologies.  Otherwise, what will be next? a toaster that will send a person a text when the toasts are ready. 
Ariella
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Ariella,
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1/13/2015 | 10:24:58 AM
Re: some great stuff
@nasimon that's just the point one of my G+ acquaintainces made today. There are things that tech people get all excited about because they are really cool, but the general public takes a different view. Consquently, a lot of stuff won't ever make it in the mass market.
nasimson
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nasimson,
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1/13/2015 | 9:05:50 AM
Re: some great stuff
@Pedro:

> I think if tech companies could shift their direction to solve problems that impact a
> large section of society it would be much better for them.

Some of these gadgets are science projects suitable for sci-fi movies with little value in real life. These are hi-tech solutions looking for problems that are not there to begin with.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
1/12/2015 | 11:19:25 PM
Re: some great stuff
I think the worst invention was the e sock.  I know adding an e to things makes them sound cool, but an e sock, come on.  The types of problems such these devices are trying to solve aren't going to save the world any time soon.  I think if tech companies could shift their direction to solve problems that impact a large section of society it would be much better for them.    For example, I can see the device to record a person's life could be use to monitor the elderly remotely.      
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
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1/12/2015 | 6:02:22 PM
Re: Cars
Agreed, car manufactures have taken headlights to a whole new level. Markers that are created by lasers to help both pedestrians as well as drivers are transforming lighting into an information system.

Intelligent systems hold a lot of promise for the automotive industry. I wonder with the recent drop in fuel prices, whether the automotive industry feels the same way about energy efficient systems.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
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1/12/2015 | 5:37:54 PM
Re: some great stuff
Susan, a few years ago, I heard about the Steamrail Ironing System. It's basically an enclosed cabinet in which a steamer pumps in steam, clothes are hung in the cabinet for around 10 to 15 minutes and supposedly, ironing is complete. It is not exactly a high-tech solution but the idea is nice.

Yes, you are spot on, if I recall correctly, I think it was a jacket that had the ability to auto-wash, in the movie Back to the Future. And, in the television series The Girl from Tomorrow, there was a device on which an individual had to stand and in 15-seconds, washing and ironing both were accomplished. With the fashion in which Nano paints for fabrics are progressing, it seems that this device is already obsolete.

Speaking of devices/discoveries that save labor, 3D printed food is an interesting development. Generally the hypothesis is that if humans did not discover fire then, they would have been limited to a diet of vegetables, fruits and nuts. The calories per gram in such food items are low and it would take on average 8 to 10 hours to chew the vegetables in order to gain the recommended 2,500 of calories needed by the human body. But fire and cooking, unleashed a diet that had a higher calories count per gram -- enabling the community to spend less time on chewing food and more time towards family, work and studies. 3D printed food might enable food creation at the home on a calorie by calorie base and maybe, this would help control obesity levels in developed economies and control food shortages (lower food wastage) in developing economies.   

 
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
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1/12/2015 | 12:43:19 PM
Cars
A lot of the car tech at the show was pretty exciting. While the Mercedes concept you mentioned probably stole the show, I did really like the BMW laser headlights. They were very cool and could potentially be not quite so far away. 
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